What are processed foods, exactly?9 years ago | Nutrition
By pH health care professionals
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a processed food has undergone a transformation to extend shelf life or to make it more palatable. Examples include dehydrated fruits, frozen vegetables, and sausages. Frozen produce would be considered “minimally” processed, while the sausage, especially if it is filled with nitrates and flavorings, fits our more common perception of processed food.
Some of the non-food things you might find in processed food include:
- Artificial flavors
- Artificial colors
- Fillers (like guar or xanthan gum, especially when the “real” ingredient like butter or cream is more expensive)
- Sweeteners (fructose, sucrose)
- Nitrates (plant compounds added to meats and cheeses as preservative, may be synthetic)
- Other preservatives like acids (ascorbic acid, for example)
- Emulsifiers (keep oily and non-oily ingredients mixed, such as soy lecithin)
- Anticaking agents (baking soda)
Different governments regulate food additives differently. The United States FDA says all of the additives you currently find on food labels are safe for human consumption. However, New Zealand actually bans sodium nitrite (commonly found in American sausage) from its sausage.
It’s tough to avoid chemical emulsifiers, which help keep ice creams and medicines smooth. These have been in the news recently, due to studies specifically on polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose. A study published in Nature showed that mice fed doses of these fillers that are in ice cream and other processed foods experienced inflammation and weight gain.
So what can you do to avoid processed foods and additives?
Limit your exposure by learning how to make homemade versions of your favorite treats. Choose “whole” meats over pepperoni, sausage and deli meats. Drink wine without sulfites. Try to avoid boxed or packaged foods, and patronize restaurants that make things from scratch. If you limit your exposure, you limit adverse effects of processed foods.
Enjoy Your Healthy Life!
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Good topic! Dr. G