It may surprise you to learn that not all processed foods are bad for you.
Frozen vegetables, for example, are processed, but retain all, if not more, of the original nutrients thanks to advanced processing techniques. Milk and yogurt are also processed, but remain close to their natural form.
It is not the general processing of food that makes it ready to eat that is a nutritional problem, but rather the ultra-processed foods that we need to minimize in the diet.
Ultra-processed foods are heavily engineered, with many ingredients, and are generally significantly different from the original food from which they originate.
Cheezels, for example, are very, very different from cheese, just as French fries are significantly different from a potato. In these examples, food manufacturers add extra flavors, sugars, fats, and often chemicals to create an entirely new food—foods that are rarely healthy.
And specifically, it is a highly consumed ultra-processed food that is associated with weight gain and lifestyle-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
There are also a variety of ultra-processed foods that masquerade as relatively “healthy” options, but a closer look at how they’re made and the ingredients they’re made with will reveal that they’re not always as healthy as perceived. . .
plant based milk
Plant-based foods are naturally given a health halo with the perception that a ‘milk’ that comes from nuts, legumes or oats must be healthier than animal-based foods.
But the reality is that plant-based milk is often heavily processed to create a milk-like product that originates from foods that don’t actually produce milk.
A quick scan of the ingredient list of your favorite nut or grain milk will reveal if there is a list of additives including sugars and oils that turn the nut or grain ‘water’ into a milk-like food. Extras like protein and vitamins are then added back into the mix. Lower in fat and calories yes, but less processed no.
A relatively new addition to the bread aisle, wrappers are lighter in appearance than regular bread and as such are often interpreted as healthier alternatives to sliced bread, but this is not the case.
It takes a lot of physical processing to turn a grain into a flat, white wrapper, concentrating the natural carbohydrates and stripping the grain of some of its natural nutrient content. In fact, the whole-wheat and whole-wheat varieties are better than the white wrappers, but they’re certainly no better nutritionally than a dense-grain bread.
Located in the health food section of supermarkets, you can be forgiven for assuming your favorite post-gym snack is a healthy option.
But a quick scan of the ingredient list will likely reveal a long list of ingredients, many of which you may not even recognize.
Concentrated protein isn’t overly appetizing, which means it needs a variety of additives to make it not only taste good, but make it into an edible bar, bite, or ball. A protein bar can be a source of protein, but not a natural, unprocessed food.
READ MORE: Five signs your diet is really bad for you
meat that is not meat
If you prefer to avoid animal foods, meat alternatives made with wheat gluten, vegetables, soy, and protein powders can be a nutritious option.
But they can also be ultra-processed foods designed to look, taste and feel like meat, poultry, fish or other animal protein, without any of the natural nutrients like protein, zinc and iron found in animal protein.
They can also be full of added oils, sugars, salts, dyes, and flavor enhancers, which doesn’t mean they’re always technically “healthier” than the meat itself.
The bright colors and vegetable bases may scream all things health, but there isn’t much about most commercial sauces that is healthy.
Sure, if you make hummus at home or mash your own avocado into guacamole, your salsa is minimally processed, but regular supermarket tubs are packed with vegetable oils, flavors, stabilizers, and colors to give a flavorful concoction that can be delicious and tastes great. a little. little like bell pepper, eggplant or beet, albeit in an ultra-processed form. Combine it with ultra-processed white rice crackers and you have the ultimate ultra-processed snack mix.
Author susie burrell is a prominent Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of shape meco-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in print and television commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.
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