We always hear that processed foods are bad for your health. But what does that mean, and what exactly are processed foods?
Most foods found in the grocery store are processed foods. Processed foods are when you take any food product and preserve it in some fashion. Processing could be as simple as placing food in packaging, freezing, canning, or somehow changing the food.
So what makes this so wrong? Well, it depends. When health experts reference unhealthy processed foods, they typically refer to foods packed with harmful chemicals such as sugar, sodium, artificial ingredients, or trans fats. Processing helps preserve the food to have a much longer shelf life, but it can seriously affect your health.
Studies have shown that those who eat a high amount of processed foods suffer from various illnesses, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more.
Examples of unhealthy foods that are processed can include:
The list can go on and on. It can make finding something healthy to eat at the grocery store feel impossible.
However, here are a few things to look for when trying to identify unhealthy processed foods.
Processed foods typically contain sugar which has little nutritional value and can be horrible for your health. These processed sugars have many names, but the most common term used on the nutrition guide is high fructose corn syrup.
Processed foods can contain trans fat, which is hard on your health. Trans fats are in microwave popcorn, cakes, cookies, fried foods, and more. They make food taste delicious, but the risks aren’t worth it when studies consistently show a link between trans fats and heart disease.
Preservatives, Coloring, and Flavorings
It is not uncommon to try and read the back of a nutrition label and see several unrecognizable ingredients that fall under preservatives, colorings, and flavorings. Preservatives help keep food from quickly going bad. Artificial colors and flavorings enhance the look and taste of food, all designed to keep you buying more.
Keeping your diet free from unhealthy processed foods can feel impossible. However, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way in making sure you grab the healthiest options off the grocery store shelves.