The truth about processed foods

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The term ‘processed’ when referring to foods is an incredibly broad and ambiguous definition. It means the food has been altered in some way. You may think of Spam or Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but it also includes tinned tomatoes, tofu and olives. Did you know that olives must be processed? They are too bitter to be palatable raw so go through a process of curing to make them the delicious snack we know and love them to be.

The term ‘ultra-processed’ has recently been adopted by researchers and the media. So, what does ultra-processed mean? It means that a food product has been made from several processed ingredients. The way the media spins it, it sounds as if we may as well be eating asbestos. In reality, ultra-processed foods include household staple foods such as bread, breakfast cereals and the humble baked bean! These foods are nothing to be feared.

By modifying and processing foods we can increase their safety by reducing the risk of food poisoning and extending their shelf life. It reduces costs by making low quality foods e.g., bruised fruit and veg into edible and tasty food products. Also reducing food waste. The process of fermentation produces processed foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir which are associated with improved gut health(1).

The government also mandates processing of flour via fortifying it with calcium, iron and B vitamins and margarines with vitamins A and D. The resulting ‘ultra-processed’ food products contribute to important reduction in nutrient deficiencies(2).

The UK is headed for a difficult winter, a cost-of-living crisis and hugely inflated cost of fuel. Many people are having to choose between food and warmth. Whole foods, organic foods and unprocessed foods are more expensive in comparison to foods that are processed. Whole foods also require time, education, and cooking resources (read fuel) to turn them into meals. It is completely inappropriate and harmful to be encouraging the public to avoid affordable food, especially as it makes up over 50% of the average person’s energy intake(3). Fearing food is not healthy. Now go forth and enjoy those ‘ultra-processed’ foods.

Sophie

1.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567126/

2.     https://archive.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/foodfacts/fortification.html?start=2#:~:text=Adding%20nutrients%20to%20foods%2C%20particularly,to%20decrease%20iodine%20deficiency%20disorders.

3.     https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/what_is_ultra-processed_food

 

Take the First Step

Dietitian SophieIf you’re struggling with a disordered relationship with food and exercise, know that you don’t have to face it alone. Professional support is crucial for your journey towards recovery.
As a registered dietitian specialising in eating disorder recovery, I provide personalised guidance and support to help individuals like you establish a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

You can book a free call with me below or get in touch with me here.

Hugs,
Sophie x

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