Lately, there has been quite a stir surrounding the issues of artificial additives and food processing. And, just like every other issue pertaining to nutrition, there is a battlefield of conflicting information coming at us from every direction, like lasers from an alien aircraft. But before you put on your armor and settle in for a round of dietary Space Invaders, read this blog instead!
Food processing: A (very) brief history
As a basic definition, processed food is commercially prepared food designed for ease of consumption*. So, if it’s been cut, sliced, diced, cooked, canned, smoked, dried, packaged, peeled…(you get the point), that’s what we mean by processed.
Food processing is nothing new. It dates back years when people would add salt, sugar, and other basic elements to make food last longer. It was never much of a problem before, so what’s changed?
What the heck is butylated hydroxytoluene?
If you don’t know how to pronounce an ingredient in your food, chances are you probably shouldn’t be consuming large quantities of it. I mean, I’m no scientist, but I live my life by a couple of primary rules: simple is better, and moderation is key.
The truth is, natural foods are better than foods which contain man-made chemicals. Our bodies were not meant to consume things not from the earth. When you compromise the molecular integrity of a compound, that is not natural, and we need to be mindful that there’s still a lot we don’t know about these compounds.
Additionally, the process of food manipulation often compromises the nutritive value of food. Years and years of research need to be done in order to make an educated conclusion, and food additives are new to the human diet, relatively speaking.
Tips to avoid processed foods
- Prepare food at home from whole ingredients.
- Stay clear of the boxed foods with ingredients you don’t know or can’t pronounce, as it’s usually a good indicator of processing.
- Make your own spice mixes, instead of buying the prepackaged versions which can contain MSG.
- Spring is coming, so start planning your garden (yum, fresh veggies) or find a local farmers market for the best local foods.
- Avoid fast food if you can. Need a fast and easy meal recipe? Try one these:
Moderation is the key
It would be silly for me to say that processed foods have no place in our diets, especially in our culture. And, while I may be chastised for saying so, food processing isn’t all bad. Processing allows for us to store foods longer, shave time off food preparation, and, insome instances, can make makes a food potentially safer (e.g. pasteurization).
Do you generally eat whole or processed foods?
photo credit: antimony funk!