What Exactly are Processed Foods?

We all know that processed foods include things like cakes, cookies, ice cream and pizza.

But what is it that makes those kinds of things processed?

Here are three simple ways to distinguish the processed from the unprocessed.

Foods that have been heavily processed are impossible to cook at home.

– Unless you have a potato starch depositing duster, a conveyer belt and a wax coating machine, then you’ll never be able to make sugary colourful beans or stackble type chips in your kitchen. To me, this really cuts out a lot of mystery when holding a food product in my hand.  Ask “Could I cook this?”, if you can’t, leaving it alone is probably a wise choice for your health.

Foods that are heavily processed have more than 10 ingredients.

– A LOT more in fact. Some are impossible to pronounce, some are latin, some are long, and some ingredients are just numbers. Again, we wouldn’t have hardly any of these types of ‘ingredients’ in our kitchen cabinets, and if they come out of a tube or pipette, would you really add it in your own cooking? Still, some foods like cereal snack bars might have a short list of recognizable ingredients, but just because we have now absorbed some terms into our lingo, doesn’t mean we should be eating them. Glucose for example is a recognizable term these days. Glucose comes from the hydrolysis of different starches, either from maize or potatoes or other starchy foods. Nope, I’ve never artificially smooshed together chemical bonds over the cooker on a Sunday afternoon either. Processed chemicals turned into processed ingredients to make processed foods, kinda scary. Keeping unprocessed ingredients in your foods to below 10, or even 5 is a great way to remain healthfully balanced and not shocking your system into all sorts of toxic states.

Processed foods are wrapped in plastic packaging.

– I’m not counting annoyingly plastic packed vegetables and fruit here. But it’s a pretty simple go to fact; if it’s wrapped in plastic it probably wasn’t made on the premises of the store you’re in. Which also means it most definitely has some preservative content in it, some harmless, but most not so harmless.  Bread and bread products, like pizza, cakes, and wraps, are processed foods at the end of the day. Yup, you can make bread at home but you probably wouldn’t make it like the breads in most supermarkets. Again, lots of ingredients and lots of processing. Even simple bread made at home would still have the raw ingredients processed to some extent. Wheat and grains do go through a variety of stages to turn them into flour. Some wholeweat type flours are simple, some, like enriched flours and bleached flours aren’t so nice and might have some hidden nasties. But if you want to make your own bread, then at least wholemeal flour is itself a one-ingredient food. Check out artisan, or local bakers for sourdough breads and different grain loaves.

There we have it. If you want to cut down on your processed food intake, as I’m currently aiming for, I like to think that these three logical sentences are much easier to think of on the spot, than a never ending list of processed foods. Taking all three into account will help in eliminating unneeded foods from the diet.

Happy shopping!

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