When it comes to dieting and eating healthy, a lot of buzzwords are thrown around. From “superfoods” to “organic”, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re trying to change into a healthier lifestyle. One of the biggest buzzwords, however, is “processed food”. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that processed food is horrible for you, but why is that the case? What exactly is processed food? Today let’s investigate this term and figure out if foods that have been “processed” are really that bad for you, or if it’s just a bit of a misconception.
Let’s start by defining what processed food is. When we hear the term, we tend to think of junk food, like chips, candy, and soda. People assume that if the food is not in a natural form (i.e. chicken nuggets), then it must be processed, and, therefore, bad. While this train of thought is not necessarily wrong, it does not show us the whole picture. For example, would you think of a salad as being “processed”? What about a batch of homemade mashed potatoes? A tuna casserole? All of these dishes have been prepared in some form, which would then make them processed food. So what’s the deal?
Degrees of Processing
What it ultimately boils down to is the amount of processing food undergoes before it enters your stomach. To get a sense of how this all works, let’s look at something simple, like a potato. Let’s say, for example, that you grow potatoes in a home garden. When you first pick them, they are raw, meaning that they have not been processed in any way. If you ate the raw potato, you would only absorb some of the calories and nutrients since it’s much harder for our bodies to digest raw ingredients.
Next, let’s say you cook the potato. Cooking our food is a form of processing, and by doing so, it releases nutrients and calories for our bodies to absorb. Simply put, the more we process food, the easier it is to digest.
Finally, let’s say after cooking the potatoes, you mash them. Turning a batch of raw potatoes into mashed potatoes is a form of heavy processing since the end result looks nothing like the raw ingredients. Even if you do this by hand and with all-natural ingredients, turning a potato into pulp makes it processed, which makes it easier for our bodies to absorb calories and nutrients.
So what does this all mean? Are processed foods bad for us? Ultimately, as they say, it’s all relative. Since processing food makes it easier to digest, we can get a lot more calories than if the food was served raw. That being said, processed food can make us fatter or lead to health problems since we can digest the sugar and salt content without interference. Just keep in mind how much processing your food goes through, as well as any other chemical ingredients added. If you want to lose weight, stay away from heavily processed foods. If you’re trying to eat healthy, just avoid foods with a lot of preservatives and added chemicals.
Adam & Amanda
We have spent most of our adult lives training and guiding thousands of people toward better health & fitness. We have created this A4 Blog in order to better educate our friends & members. We will answer any of your health / fitness / nutrition questions as well as keeping you posted on what's new at A4.