Many foods need a degree of processing, but some processed foods can have a negative effect on your health. Oats for example may be chopped up finely before being added to food, or protein is processed to remove fat and carbohydrates, but these processes don’t make them bad.
When referring to processed foods, these are the foods that are chemically processed and tend to be high in sugar, artificial ingredients, refined carbohydrates and trans fats. These include ready meals, baked goods such as pasties, sausage rolls, processed meats, sweets, crisps, cakes and biscuits.
Processed food is a major contributor to many health issues and obesity across the globe. The use of chemically processed foods has become more popular with the average diet containing 60% of foods from these categories.
What is a processed food?
Almost all foods are processed in some way, from picking in a field and landing on supermarket shelves foods may be cleaned or chopped, this generally does not make foods bad for you. It is often referred to as mechanical processing — such as grinding beef, heating vegetables, or pasteurising foods. If the processing does not add chemicals or ingredients, it does not tend to reduce the nutrient level of the food.
However chemical processing does damage the nutrient level of the food. Chemically processed foods often only contain refined ingredients and artificial substances, with little nutritional value. They tend to have added chemical flavouring agents, colours, and sweeteners.
Some examples of chemically processed foods include:
- frozen or ready meals.
- baked goods, including pizza, cakes, and pastries.
- packaged breads.
- processed cheese products.
- breakfast cereals.
- crackers and chips.
- candy and ice cream.
- instant noodles and soups.
- reconstituted meats, such as sausages, nuggets, fish fingers, and processed ham.
- sodas and other sweetened drinks.
Are processed foods bad for you?
Chemically processed foods tend to taste appetising and are often cheaper than the healthier alternatives. However, they usually contain unhealthy ingredients, such as trans-fats, added sugar, and salt. These foods also contain less dietary fibre and fewer vitamins and minerals than whole foods.
Here are some reasons why you should avoid chemically processed foods:
Processed foods tend to be high in sugar and often the type of sugar is high fructose corn syrup, which is a processed sugar made from corn syrup with many negative effects on health.
Always read labels, if a food has high fructose corn syrup don’t eat or drink it.
Cutting down on added sugar by exchanging fizzy drinks for water is a quick and easy way to remove sugar from your diet.
If the ingredients list on the back of the packet is full of unrecognizable substances its probably best to avoid the food. All Ultra Nutrition supplements use natural flavourings. You can see a full list of all ingredients here.
Highly processed foods often contain the following types of unhealthy ingredients:
- preservatives, which keep the food from going bad quickly
- artificial colours
- chemical flavours
Also, processed foods can contain dozens of additional chemicals that are not listed on their labels.
For example, ‘artificial flavour’ is a proprietary blend. Manufacturers do not have to disclose exactly what it means, and it is usually a combination of chemicals.
Carbohydrates from whole foods provide far greater health benefits than refined carbohydrates.
The body breaks down refined, or simple, carbohydrates quickly, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. When these levels then drop, you will experience food cravings and low energy.
Low in nutrients
Processed foods are exceptionally low in essential nutrients, compared with whole or minimally processed foods.
Fruits, vegetables, and grains, for example, contain healthful plant compounds with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic effects. These include flavonoids, anthocyanins, tannins, and carotenoids.
The best way to get the full range of essential nutrients is to eat whole, unprocessed, or minimally processed foods.
When looking at food labels, avoid foods with lots of unnatural ingredients. Most of your diet should be made up of wholesome, natural foods.
Ultra Nutrition supplements are made from natural ingredients and we give a full list of all ingredients and their benefits here.