‘Processed food’ is deemed to contribute largely to the obesity epidemic and its associated health risks. What is it, is it avoidable and how much is your daily intake? Let’s take a moment to delve into this matter to clarify all of these issues.
Processed Foods : The Good, The Bad And The Evil
Processed food generally refers to food that is produced by the addition of natural or artificial chemical substances for the purposes of:
- enhancing its taste
- preserving its flavour
- rendering it more appealing
- prolonging its shelf-life
A large majority of foods purchased from stores constitute processed foods. The element of convenience makes them very popular in the average household today.
Back in the day, most people used to cook from scratch. Can we say the same about the modern day family?
The answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ In this day and age, a large number of households spend a substantial amount of money on processed food, partly due to time constraints or some other reasons. This exposes the average person to a myriad of food additives some of which may have adverse effects on your health.
There are hundreds of food additives, and these fall under different classifications. The categories, description, health risks, if any, and the status of food additives are all spelt out and there are online resources to which they can be referred.
Legislation requires that food additives be indicated clearly on food labels among the list of ingredients either by number or the additive’s name. Check out these food labels before you have your next meal, snack or dessert and about your next grocery shopping,…watch what you spend your money on.
Food Production Techniques
Typical methods or techniques used in the production of processed foods include:
- Salting / Curing
- Vacuum Packing
Types Of Processed Foods
The various types range from minimally-processed to heavily-processed examples of which include:
- Breakfast Cereal
- Dried Fruits
- Frozen Foods
- Canned Vegetables
- Processed Meats
- Ready Meals and Fast Foods
The Main ‘Culprits’
Clearly, the above list types appear to be everyday food items for the standard household, hence a constant in our shopping carts. This somehow makes them more or less unavoidable. Well the good news is that processed food does not necessarily have adverse effect on your health depending on what and how much is consumed on a daily basis. However, the three ‘culprits’ to look out for are the added:
- Sodium / Salt
- Fat / Trans Fat
Ultra-processed foods are currently dominating the market on a global scale. As these additives are constantly being used in the production of processed foods, there is a consumption increase which tends to exceed the recommended amounts. Furthermore, foods high in sugar and fat would result in high calorie intake.
There are some health risks associated with high consumption of some food additives:
- Sodium – High levels can cause high blood pressure
- Added Sugars – High levels can result in weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes
- Trans Fats – Raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol and cause cardiovascular diseases
It is therefore advisable to check nutrition labels when buying food products and steer clear of foods high in sodium, sugar and fat. Make good choices, many processed foods can be part of a healthy balanced diet, MODERATION is the keyword here.
Oh, before you jet off, make a mental note of the diagram below and bring it with you whenever you go grocery-shopping.
Be Well-Informed, Forewarned Is Forearmed!