Processed foods are what becomes of agricultural products when manufactured for the food supply. Unlike unprocessed natural foods, it can mean what happens when the fruit, vegetables, grains or meats are cleaned, milled, cut, chopped, heated, canned, pasteurized, etc. that caused a change from the original state due to additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, colorings, which all boils down to destroying valuable nutrients and replacing them with less than healthy ingredients. Being the case, here is what you need to know to sort through the confusing wording regarding processed foods.
First of all, a product label that specifies minimally processed refers to just basic cleaning of the fruits or vegetables through washing or milk that is pasteurized. The important thing to remember is that this processing doesn’t compromise the nutritional integrity of the item but helps control bacterial growth. This grouping also can consist of foods such as whole grains and nuts.
Just seeing the word processed on the label can signify that salt, sugar with or without oil can be added to the product to improve taste and longer shelf life. The difference is that only a few extras find their way into the product in order to stay true to its original form.
Wording such as moderately processed refers to natural sweeteners such as honey or agave nectar incorporated and preservatives such as citric acid or vinegar. This classification refers to the fact the products have gone through more processing before those foods can reach your table. Canned vegetables and pasta to ones such as peanut butter can fall in this category.
On the other hand, ultra processed on the label translates into the product having five or more ingredients thrown in the mix as well. Usually, these are the goodies type of snacking product such as luncheon meats, chips, pretzels, cakes, cookies, etc. that have bad oils such as hydrogenated oils, lots of sugar and heavy preservatives to keep those products stable and still chalked full of great taste.
Believe it or not, there can be more than 2,500 food additives in foods. Each one has a specific purpose from adding color, improving flavor, prolonging stability, controlling mold to enhancing texture. Some of these ingredients also pose more health risks than others.
For instance, ingredients that are used to fight mold such as mycotoxins are suspected as carcinogenic. However, they are commonly found yet in cereal grains. You might notice mycotoxins on that label as aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, fumonisins, deoxynivalenol, and zearalenone. The processing through extreme heat kills most before those products reach stores. Nonetheless, there can still be some of those mycotoxins left in those products.
If you’re curious about other carcinogenic food additives to be leery about, you should check out that link that I provided.
This post on unprocessed foods isn’t intended to frighten you, but only makes you more aware of what you’re eating. The more knowledge that you gain on this subject, the safer your health will be.