Question: I keep hearing how bad processed food is for you. It seems like all food is processed, so how do I eat healthy?
Answer: You are right that many foods are processed, however it is not necessarily true that processed foods are bad for you!
The term “processed foods” carries a negative connotation. Food processing is any change that is done to a food before we eat it. Simple food-processing methods include cooking, freezing, drying, canning, salting … even washing our food. More complicated food- processing methods include making ready-to-eat meals— such as frozen entrees, pizzas and burritos—that can be quickly reheated and eaten.
People have been processing their food for centuries. Hundreds of years ago, salt was added to preserve meat for times when food was sparse. Preservation is still a big reason to process our foods, leading to a longer shelf life, less waste due to spoilage and the ability to transport perishable foods over long distances.
- allows for wider availability of many foods that only
- have a short season (think frozen berries in winter)
- enhances food safety by killing bacteria that can cause disease
- improve the taste, texture and consistency of foods
- makes foods more convenient to eat
Keep in mind that there are no foods to always eat or always avoid; individual foods should be eaten and enjoyed within an overall balanced diet. Dietary patterns over time—not individual foods, meals or even days— determine our health and longevity. When chosen carefully and eaten in moderation, processed foods are an important part of our diet and contribute greatly to the affordability, convenience, safety, nutritional content and taste of our meals and snacks!