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14 Examples of Processed Foods

Much of the food we eat has been processed in some way, and the latest data suggests that almost 60% of the food we eat is considered heavily processed.

From a jar of pasta sauce to whole-wheat bread to frozen meals and chicken nuggets, processed foods make preparing a meal easier. Food processing has many benefits, but ultra-processed foods can increase the risk of health problems. Read on to learn more about the health impact of processed foods, how to identify them, and some healthy (and unhealthy) processed foods.

What are processed foods?

Anything that has been frozen, canned, cooked, dried or packaged is considered processed – at least to some extent. Those frozen blueberries you add to your smoothies? Treated (albeit minimally). The canned beans you add to tacos? Also processed. Old-fashioned oats? Yes, these have also been dealt with. As you can see, many healthy foods are considered processed.

Foods can be processed to prevent spoilage so that they can be safely consumed for a longer period of time. It can also be transformed to make it more convenient – ​​thank goodness there are bagged salad greens! Sometimes foods are processed to improve their flavor or texture, such as plant-based coffee creamers. Some foods are processed to make them more nutritious by adding vitamins and minerals. This is the case for refined cereals and sugary cereals (even if they have also undergone additional processing). Foods can also be processed to make them safer to consume. However, despite these advantages, food processing can have disadvantages.

Processed or ultra-processed foods

Most of the headline-making research on ultra-processed foods has used a classification system called NOVA from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Foods fall into one of four categories:

  • Unprocessed or minimally processed foods include fruits and vegetables (and their prepared or frozen versions), eggs, milk, natural yogurt, and natural meat, poultry, and seafood. You can also find grains like flour, rice and pasta in this category.
  • Processed culinary ingredients are used to enhance unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Think salt, sugar, oil, vinegar and honey.
  • Processed foods are made from a combination of ingredients from the first two categories. So everything from canned tuna and beans to cheese is considered processed.
  • Ultra-processed foods are made with ingredients you don’t find in a home or restaurant kitchen, such as additives, preservatives, colorings and emulsifiers. Depending on the classification system, this group includes everything from sodas to sugary yogurts to processed meats to chips and many other foods found on grocery store shelves. These foods are designed to be very convenient and very tasty, making them easy to eat – or overeat.

It’s worth mentioning that this system is a research tool, but it may not be the most useful way to decipher the safety of the foods you eat. Indeed, some foods classified as ultra-processed, like packaged whole-grain breads, are much healthier than others, like soda.

On the other hand, some foods, like white rice, have been processed to remove fibrous, nutrient-rich germs and bran, but are considered minimally processed by this classification system.

How to Identify Processed Foods

Some foods are undeniably processed, like bacon and jerky. It gets a little murkier with healthier foods, like low-sugar yogurt and whole-grain breads and cereals. These foods, although processed, contain valuable nutrients from their whole food ingredients, such as calcium and protein from yogurt, and fiber and antioxidants from whole grain breads and cereals.

Rather than getting caught up in the NOVA classification, examine the ingredients to see if there are items you won’t find in your kitchen, like preservatives, colors, flavors, and emulsifying ingredients, all of which indicate that ‘a food has been heavily processed. Here are some ingredients to look out for:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Whey protein
  • Maltodextrin
  • Xanthan gum
  • Soy lecithin
  • Carrageenan
  • Caramel color
  • Stevia, aspartame, sucralose and other no- or low-calorie sweeteners

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of ​​the types of ingredients to look out for. It’s also helpful to look at the Nutrition Facts table to see how much added sugar, sodium and saturated fat the product contains. Too much of any of these substances may be a sign of intensive treatment.

Health Risks of Processed Foods

Evidence is steadily mounting that eating more heavily processed foods is associated with many health problems – 32 different conditions, according to one study. The study found that a diet rich in these foods was associated with a higher risk of:

  • Anxiety, depression and other common mental health problems
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sleep problems
  • Dying earlier in life from heart disease or any other cause

Other studies have found an association between ultra-processed foods and a higher risk of cancer and weight gain.

However, these studies do not prove cause and effect, meaning that ultra-processed foods have not been shown to cause these problems. Scientists have consistently linked people who eat lots of ultra-processed foods to serious health problems.

We are still trying to understand why these foods are so problematic. Is it because they harm your gut health? Is it the additives they contain? Do they encourage you to overeat? Time will tell, but there is no need to wait for the science to arrive. For now, experts agree that limiting your consumption of these foods and favoring whole or less processed foods are healthy habits.

How can I eat processed foods as part of a healthy diet?

Remember, processing is a spectrum, so you don’t have to eliminate convenience when you limit heavily processed foods.

When choosing convenience foods, focus on those that are closest to their natural state, with limited amounts of added sugar, salt and additives. These include foods like roasted nuts, canned beans, single-ingredient protein pastes (like chickpea or edamame flour), nuts and nut butters, tuna and other canned fish, as well as fruits and vegetables, whether dried, canned or frozen. with little or no added sugar or seasonings.

Also remember that it’s what you eat most of the time that has the biggest impact on your health. So for the most part, focus on filling your plate with whole, minimally processed foods. Try making half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at lunch and dinner, and include fruit at breakfast and snacks. Reserve a quarter of your plate for a whole, starchy carb, like sweet potatoes or brown rice, and the other quarter for a protein, like chicken, shrimp, or tofu.

Examples of Processed Foods

While no food is completely off-limits, experts agree that eating fewer of these processed foods is a good idea:

  • Processed meats. This includes both red processed meats, like bacon and ham, and white processed meats, like deli meats or packaged turkey and chicken. Choose another convenient protein, such as store-bought rotisserie chicken, store-roasted fresh turkey, hard-boiled eggs, or canned tuna.
  • Sodas and other sugary drinks. These drinks constitute the primary source of added sugars in our diet. While many people replace sugary drinks with their sugar-free and unsweetened counterparts, water or unsweetened seltzer are healthier options. If this seems boring, add some 100% fruit juice, fruit puree or herbs. Unsweetened herbal teas are another option.
  • Refined grains. Although important nutrients are added to refined grains, it is healthier to choose whole grains. There are many quick cooking options, like frozen or parboiled quinoa and wild and brown rice. Although processed, whole grain breads and cereals are healthier than their refined counterparts. When shopping for cereal, look for varieties with no or little added sugar.
  • Chips and other heavily processed crunchy snacks. Try replacing chips, pretzels, and other tasty snacks with packaged snacks made with whole food ingredients, like toasted nuts and chickpeas.
  • Dessert foods. Sometimes it’s more than okay to have dessert, but for everyday treats, try to find healthier ways to satisfy your sweet tooth and curb your sugar cravings. Some ideas include store-bought chocolate-covered bananas or banana slices, dates stuffed with nut butter and mini chocolate chips, or a faux crumble made from reheated frozen fruit and low-sugar granola.

Here are some other examples of processed foods that are healthy to keep in your diet regularly:

  • Canned beans
  • Canned fish
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Old-fashioned oats
  • Bagged green salads
  • Cheese
  • Wholemeal breads
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Low sugar yogurt


Heavily processed foods make life easier, but they can carry some health risks, so it’s a good idea to reduce your dependence on them. Instead, choose less processed and healthy, convenient foods, while remaining attentive to nutrition.

News Source : www.today.com
Gn Health

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