There is the common impression that when a person speaks of processed food, such person speaks of a food that lacks nutritions and will not pass as part of a healthy diet. People who are trying to stay fit try to stay away from processed food. Is this impression accurate?
To know the answer, one must first know what is meant by processed food. Processed food is anything that is not found in nature to be edible as is, but rather, needs thorough processing to be edible. It usually contains so many artificial flavors and other additives. This kind of food is what is usually found in packages, boxes, bags, or cans in the grocery store. Most often than not, this kind of food does not contains as much nutritions as unprocessed or natural food. That is why people who follow a strict healthy diet to stay fit usually avoid processed food.
However, there are certain exceptions to this unhealthy notion of processed food. There are processed foods that are actually beneficial to the body. Take for example canned tomatoes. The absorbability of lycopene is higher in canned tomatoes than in fresh tomatoes. Another example is plain yogurt. This processed milk retains the protein and calcium nutritions of milk while at the same time gaining probiotic benefits in the process.
In other words, a healthy diet may still, from time to time, contain variance of processed food. It does not necessarily mean that if one is trying to stay fit, he or she should stay away from processed food altogether. One must only know the degree of process done in the food one is about to eat. This is because in the spectrum of processing food, from completely unprocessed or natural food to completely processed, what lies in between may give the nutritions that the body would deem appropriate and helpful, just as much as the natural food. To say it another way, the more the food is processed, the unhealthier it becomes. So it is wise to classify food according to its process level: minimally processed, moderately processed, and junk food.
Minimally processed are those that have been diced, sliced, trimmed, and/or more or less cooked or cultured. They have, at most, two natural additives to help preserve their freshness, like a small amount of salt or Vitamin C. Examples of minimally processed food are canned tomatoes, rolled oats, and peanut butter.
Next are moderately processed foods. These are natural foods turned-into-something-else food. By that, it means that raw ingredients are turned into a new and different kind of food. They collect five additional ingredients or fewer during the processing. Examples of moderately processed food are trimmed meat turned into burger patties, sweet potatoes turned into ready-to-bake-fries, and milk turned into yogurt or cheese. The healthiness of these foods varies. There are those that are perfectly healthy as daily staples and there are those that contain extra ingredients that the body does not find nutritious. A person who sticks to a healthy diet must choose wisely in this category.
Lastly, there are the junk foods, like candy, soda, chips, donates, sugary breakfast cereals, packaged cakes and cookies etc. This category is the unhealthiest of the three. These foods should be avoided at all times if possible. There are two types of junk foods – the organic junk foods and the conventional junk foods. Organic junk foods most of the time claim that they are “100% natural” food, but the truth of the matter is that they are processed, resulting in plenty of sugar, and that means plenty of refined carbohydrates and fat or empty calories. Conventional junk foods are just as fattening as organic junk foods. The main distinction is that conventional junk foods use artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives that are not used in their organic counterparts. Nevertheless, despite these two different types of junk foods, it all boils down to the conclusion that junk foods are unhealthy and are to be avoided.