The definition of processed food applies to any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, either for safety reasons or convenience. Food processing techniques include freezing, canning, baking, drying and pasteurizing products. Some ingredients can undergo changes — like being frozen, fermented or sprouted — that makes them equally or more nutritious than they once were. Not all processes are detrimental.
A Few Examples of Quality Processed Foods That You Want to Eat:
Frozen veggies and fruit are processed at their peak, in terms of freshness and nutrition. The produce is picked, quickly blanched, and immediately frozen and packaged. Nutrient levels are at their highest, so the vitamins and nutrients are preserved until the next time the package is open. The nutrients in produce are generally NOT lost during freezing (and canning). They provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh. Canned tomatoes, for example, are tomatoes that have been harvested at their peak season. In the heating process, the powerful antioxidant, lycopene is released more so than fresh tomatoes.
Organic nut and seed butter are made by either roasting the nut or seed and then blending it until it is butter. Or, it can be made without roasting and just grinding the nut or seed until it turns to butter. When you take a nut or seed and blend it, oils are naturally released turning the original into a creamy blend. Sometimes brands add a touch of salt.
Frozen organic chicken breasts have a nutritional profile similar to fresh chicken, as the process does not use any preservatives, although blast-chilled chicken may have more additives.
Wild canned salmon is processed by a machine that cuts the fish into sections and fills it into the empty cans. Only salt is added to the empty cans prior to filling. Nothing else is added to the canned salmon. The liquid in the can is a natural liquid that cooks-out from the fish flesh. Immediately the cans are sealed and heated by a steam pressure vessel. The cans are then cooled, only until sufficient heat remains in the cans so that they will dry and not rust.
A Few Examples of Processed Foods You Do Not Want to Eat:
- Frozen dinners
- Chicken tenders with fillers added
- Hot dogs
- Gummy candies
- Chips, crackers, cookies and other snack foods with long ingredient lists
- Artificially colored cheese
- Soda pop and juices that are not 100% juice
The simplest way to avoid bad processed foods is to stick to foods that are closest to their original form. Or slightly modified, yet still healthy. Stay away from products that have more than five ingredients or ingredients that you cannot pronounce or define.