Processed foods are handled and altered in some way before they get to your pantry or refrigerator. The more harmless kind of processing is cutting and peeling a variety of fruit, and packaging it as a "fruit salad." The next step in processing is canning food, which can either reduce the nutritional content of food or introduce an unhealthy quantity of natural elements, like adding sodium. The next step is changing foods by chemically altering them.
Why Processed Foods Are Bad for You
There are many reasons why these chemically altered foods are really bad for you. The most obvious is that they’re often full of chemicals. Even those lists of artificial ingredients on the food labels of heavily processed foods don’t reveal the whole story. Proprietary rights on secret ingredients, for example, allow food companies to omit a lot of details about what’s in their products. The term “artificial ingredients” can have several unnamed chemicals lurking behind it.
Here are some other specific reasons why heavily processed foods can be terrible for you.
1. They often contain too much sugar and fructose syrup, refined carbohydrates, and trans fats.
2. Lots of processed foods have refined grains like rice and white flour, and many nutrients are stripped out of the whole grains they came from.
3. Competition between food manufacturers encourages creating foods that reward your brain in ways that are similar to drug addiction, leading to obesity. Reading labels can help, but it may be close to impossible to avoid all processing.
One way to cut down on a lot of processed foods is to remember to avoid these things:
Food You Should Avoid
1. Processed meats like sausages, hot dogs, and those you’d find in a deli. They’re linked to cancer and have lots of saturated fats.
2. Mass-produced baked goods, which often have trans fats.
3. Meals you can cook quickly often have too many sugars and salts, along with lots of refined carbohydrates.
4. Sodas have more sugars than you should ever have in a drink.
Not all processed foods are bad. It's important to note that some foods — including peanut butter, yogurt, canned tuna, and whole-grain cereals — can be good for you.
The key thing to remember is that most foods in supermarkets that can’t be found in nature — such as cheese puffs, pasta, muffins, or gummy bears — have probably been processed in some way. If you avoid the worst effects of food processing and add whole foods whenever possible, you’ll make some significant improvements to your health!