I think nowadays many people are aware of things like counting calories and exercising daily. but this question of Why and how to avoid processed foods? is still a thing not many people discuss or at least not discussed as frequently and widely as it should be, given its importance.
So without further ado, let’s start the post!
What are processed foods?
Processed food is anything which is made by raw food items or materials with the help of processes like baking, canning, frying, drying, adding sugars and preservatives, milling etc. And in today’s world, literally everything you eat is processed food. Be it your bread, chapatis, juice, fast foods, bakery items and sabjis etc. The only things left now which you eat in a raw form majorly include fruits, nuts, milk and some vegetables like a carrot.
But not all processed foods are bad or at least not that bad to be concerned about much. Some of these foods that you should not be worried about much include milk, cheese, bread (not the fancy ones) and pasta (homemade).
The processed food I am talking about that you should aim to avoid and be concerned about are the ones that are high calorie-dense and undergo many processes before you eat or drink them. Some popular processed food include –
- Fast foods like french fries, burgers and pizza
- Processed meat like chicken nuggets, sausage, ham etc.
- Sugary fizzy drinks, energy drinks
- Bakery items like muffins, pastries
Why? Now let’s dig a little deeper!
Why are they bad for our health?
Many research papers and articles can be found in famous journals suggesting that the higher the degree of processing of food, the more such food is unhealthy for our body.
Why? This is mainly because of the following reasons –
- They contain a lot of sugar, sodium and fats. And all of these can lead to various cardiovascular problems if consumed excessively.
- Such food items had already undergone many processes before they enter our bodies, so our bodies take less time to digest these in comparison to raw or unprocessed foods. As a result, our hunger doesn’t go anywhere even after consuming such calorie-dense food.
- These foods are often full of preservatives, artificial flavours and additives which can cause problems like diarrhoea, insomnia, itching etc. for people who are sensitive or intolerant to certain additives.
- According to this paper published in the The BMJ, every 10% increase in high-processed foods like baked goods, processed meats and biscuits in diet can increase the risk of overall and breast cancer by more than 10%.
OK, so we know why we should avoid processed foods. But now, let’s see how to avoid processed foods.
How to avoid processed foods?
There are many practices that you can start doing in order to cut down on processed food as much as possible. However, for your own sake, don’t try to eliminate every processed food you could find in your kitchen. As I said before, try to cut down on only those which are heavily processed.
Alright, so these are some practices you could follow to minimize the consumption of such foods –
- Try to read the labels properly before buying. If there are many unnecessary ingredients labelled on a food item, just try to avoid it as more ingredients mean more processing. And also see, that the food you’re buying has minimal chemical names on the ingredient list.
- Replace processed meat with pre-packed meat or vegetables. Well, the best option for meat-eaters would be meat cooked at home. This is not a problem in most Asian countries as meat is usually cooked in people’s homes only, but in western countries, people often eat processed meat.
- Cook meals more often at home. See, people eat processed foods mostly when they don’t want to cook in their home or they are outside their homes. Well, in the latter case, you definitely have no choice but to eat processed food most of the time. But when you’re at home, try avoiding packaged and processed foods as much as possible.
I am sure that till now, the word “processed food” would have made a very bad image in your minds. Well, it’s definitely the most logical thing to have such a bad image of this word. But HEY!! even with these many bad things associated with processed food, you still don’t have to eliminate it completely from your diets.
You just have to make sure that you’re eating such foods only on certain occasions or at least eat them at max 2-3 times a week. And see, these foods become a problem mainly because of their high fat, sugar and sodium contents. So if somehow, you are able to have appropriate consumption of these nutrients even after consuming such foods, then it’s not kind of a big deal.
See, the purpose of this post was not to make you feel guilty about consuming such foods in your diet. But, I had written this post to mainly spread awareness about this topic, so that you can understand the risks of it if you consume too much of it and how you can avoid those risks.