One of my personal pet peeves is hearing someone say “don’t eat processed foods”.
Food processing has done wonders for our global and local food systems. If you eat frozen berries or canned tomatoes you eat processed foods!
The foods we want to eat less of are ‘hyper’ or ‘ultra’ processed foods. These foods have been dramatically altered from their original state by adding sugars, fats, and other additives.
Baked goods with an extended shelf life (Jos Louis and twinkies), potato chips, frozen meals and fruit drinks can all be considered ultra-processed. These are the foods we can try to eat less of by trying to get into the kitchen, one step at a time to make our own snacks and meals.
“Don’t eat processed food!”
This is a common piece of advice for people who want to eat healthier to prevent diet-induced obesity and heart disease. But food scientists understand this advice as an over-simplification of a complicated issue, and we want to help you understand what processed food really is so that you can make more informed decisions in the grocery store.
Processing is any change made to a raw agricultural product after harvest.
Farms produce food, it’s true, but straight from the farm that food is a raw, sometimes inedible product. Although whole fruits and some vegetables can be eaten as-is, most foods are processed before they reach our grocery stores, restaurants, and home kitchens. Processing can be physical, such as sorting, washing, shelling/dehulling, peeling, milling, and chopping; thermal, such as freezing, cooking, drying, sterilizing/retorting, and pasteurizing; chemical, such as fermentation…
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