Are processed foods bad? Dietitians share healthy tips

In a recent Instagram video, nutritionist Clara Nozick made a video using only “processed” foods. Nope, you didn’t confuse the Big Mac. In fact, I used ingredients like frozen fruit, packaged spinach, protein shakes, peanut butter, and yogurt. Her point was that we use the term “processed foods” to misrepresent what people eat – but most foods have gone through some process. “The term ‘processed foods’ is used as an overall rapid classification of ‘bad’ foods to be avoided when there is already a more nuanced conversation going on,” Nosik says. Barber.

“Processing methods include washing, cutting, canning and freezing as well as fermentation and pasteurization,” explains nutritionist Marilia Chamon of Gutfulness Nutrition. She explained that processing also involves adding ingredients, which may alter flavor characteristics, shelf life and even the nutritional content of the food. “However, it is important to understand that there are different categories of food processing, from minimally processed foods to ultra-processed foods.”

Are processed foods harmful to you?

Processed foods get a bad rap due to the fact that “in general, the more you prepare the food the lower its nutritional density,” says personal trainer and nutritionist Eleanor Heaton Armstrong. But it’s not always true that more steps equals fewer benefits – while some processes may be less nutritious (like juicing, which removes all the fiber from the fruit, or deep-frying the fat), other processes, like freezing, actually help preserve on nutrients in food.

Some items too need to Processing. “For example, dairy products go through a processing method called pasteurization that kills potentially harmful bacteria,” says Chamon. Heaton-Armstrong agrees: “Tofu and tempeh are great sources of protein and B12 for non-meat eaters, and are made by processing soybeans. Cereals and fortified dairy products are also good ways to get essential vitamins in kids’ meals, especially those who tend to be selective. Eating. However, movements like the raw foods diet have jumped to the fact that the processes are bad, and you have to eat foods as close to their true state as possible to be healthy.”

Table of pizza, salad and other foods
There should be room for all foods in your diet.

That’s why it’s important to differentiate between processed foods in general and those considered “ultra-processed.” These are things that have a high amount of preservatives and artificial sweeteners or go through several different processes to reach the end point. “Examples include ready-to-consumer products such as soft drinks, sweet or savory packaged snacks, desserts, and breakfast cereals,” says Shamon.

This does not mean that you should always avoid ultra-processed foods. For Heaton Armstrong, there is room for everything in our food systems. “Salt, artificial sugars, and trans fat content appear more regularly in ultra-processed foods and are something to watch, but my approach is that no food should be denigrated for any reason other than personal taste,” she says.

According to research by the BMJ, eating less highly processed foods is associated with a lower risk of disease. But the danger is when diets consist of the majority of ultra-processed foods, rather than simply including them as part of a varied diet. “As long as you take care of your body with exercise and other foods, it can handle the odd burger or pizza,” Heaton Armstrong says.

Back in this video, Nosek chose peanut butter with salt and added sugar instead of 100% nuts, and fruit that has been frozen rather than fresh. The lesson here is that it’s almost impossible to eat a balanced diet without eating foods that are not minimally processed (that might mean no washing, no cooking, no packing, etc.) and even nutritionists themselves sometimes choose the more processed versions. But most importantly, let it be a reminder of the huge amount of shameful language that surrounds our diets.

“I think we should be more interested in the way we categorize and discuss the foods we eat, and reduce the stress of trying to have an ‘ideal’ diet,” Nosek adds. “We should be asking questions like: Are we eating enough? Do we eat regularly? Do we develop a healthy relationship with food? Can we have access to a variety of fruits and vegetables?

“Food is often reduced to the macro and micro nutrients that they provide, and we quickly lose sight of the other roles that food plays in our lives. Food is cultural. Food can be memories. Food can provide comfort. Food should be enjoyable. Rather than worrying.” On what we need to limit and limit, we can paraphrase ourselves to ask ourselves what we can add: More vegetables? New recipe? Alternative protein?” We say, stop worrying about processed foods and just enjoy frozen fruit and fortified oat milk.

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