March 28, 2014

What are Processed Foods


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Perhaps you have asked yourself “what are processed foods?” Picture yourself in your usual supermarket and try to visualize all of the processed foods. Better yet, the next time you are out shopping see how many foods on the shelves are processed. You may be surprised to learn that there is a tremendous array of these foods!

In order to eat healthier, you need to understand some processed food facts. Processed foods are foods that are not in their natural state. Processing foods alters them in some way. Processing foods with heat, chemicals, and preservatives will change their flavor, consistency, and nutritional value.


Food processing companies add chemicals to their processed foods. Some of these chemicals may be bad for your health, and you need to take steps to avoid or limit them. Further, there are extra chemicals created during the processing of food. For example, microwavable foods may come in packaging that leaches chemicals from plastics into your food when it is heated.

Examples of Processed Food

What is considered processed food? The list of processed foods includes spreadable cheese, processed cheese slices, prepared meals, microwavable meals, packaged food, and canned food.

Examples of Processed Foods

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Harmfull Chemicals Found in Processed Food

Chemicals in your food are categorized by the Food & Drug Administration as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe), but you should only eat some of them sparingly or not at all.

Always read the labels on any food product you buy. Here is a list of common chemicals found in processed food of which you should be wary:

Artificial Sweeteners: Added to foods to reduce caloric content are sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin.

Bleaching Agents: Acetone peroxide is a bleaching agent that makes food white. Thus, traces of this chemical are found in white rice and in all foods made with bleached flour such as white bread products, cookies, and other baked goods.


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Brominated Oils: Soft-drink manufacturers use brominated oils. Their use as a food additive is banned in many countries, but brominated oils are still allowed for limited use in the United States.

Colorings: Caramel coloring is not an added coloring, but rather one that ends up in your food from processing it. Caramel coloring turns up in foods such as colas and other high carbohydrate foods that turn brown. This coloring has been controversial, as some consider it a carcinogen. Other added colorings such as red food dyes may also be a health problem.

Hydrogenated/Modified Oils and Trans Fats: Many food companies are removing hydrogenated oils and trans fats from their ingredients due to recent research suggesting these fats contribute to arterial disease. Many foods including margarines, snack foods, and crackers have added trans fats.

Preservatives: Processed food contains many preservatives to extend shelf life. Some of these are BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), disodium EDTA (disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetate), fumaric acid, polysorbate 80, and sodium nitrite (added to meats).

How Processed Foods Increase Weight

Processed foods can increase weight because they contain too much sodium, fat, and carbohydrate. Sodium causes your body to retain water and contributes to hypertension. The fat content of processed foods greatly increases calories. A diet high in carbohydrates—especially refined ones—can lead to diabetes and insulin resistance. Over time, a poor diet consisting of sugar, sodium, and fat, may cause metabolic syndrome—a health condition characterized by obesity, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides (blood fats), and even diabetes.

Processed frozen foods

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How to Avoid Processed Food Chemicals

While it may be impossible to follow a completely no processed food diet, you can certainly learn to limit your intake of processed foods. Not all processed foods are unhealthy, but you need to know the difference if you want to eat wisely. Read the labels, and try to choose foods with fewer additives and less number of ingridients. Eating healthy often means making meals or dishes from scratch with wholesome ingredients. It may take more time to make non processed foods, but may be worth it for your health. You will feel better knowing you are taking steps to follow a non processed food diet.

A List of Processed Foods to Avoid

When shopping, try to choose natural, whole foods. Here are examples of processed foods to avoid or limit:

  • Potato chips, Pretzels, Bread Sticks

  • Cookies, Cookie Dough, Biscuits

  • Candies, Choclates

  • Enrgy Bars, Choclate Bars

  • Baked goods like Muffins, Donuts, Cakes, Pastries, White bread Pizza, Pizza dough

  • Jams and jellies

  • Salad dressings, Ketchup, Mayonese and sauces etc.

  • Syrups like Corn Syrup, Rcie Syrup

  • Pudding

  • Canned meat, Cured meat, Ham, Bacon, Lunch meats like sausage, hot dogs

  • Whipped toppings and icings

  • All kinds of Dessert mixes

  • Frozen meals

  • All kinds of Canned foods and Canned fruits

  • Prepackaged foods that is most foods that are in a package

  • Cereals

  • Falvoured Yogurts, Ice cream

  • Drinks, Soft drinks, Fruit drinks, Instant breakfast drinks

Think before you eat ...

Deirdre Denholm
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