Lately, the health industry has put a lot of emphasis on eating clean and avoiding all processed foods. But what does processed food really mean in today’s world? Is it the Maccie D’s we grab on the way home after a long day at work, or does it also include the milk in our coffee that has undergone a pasteurisation process? Let’s decipher the semantics.
By Jana du Plessis
What’s in a process?
If taking a simple Google search, the word process refers to ‘a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end’. With this in mind, it becomes clear that nearly all of the food we consume have been processed in some form or another. Whether we steamed our veggies or ate a refined, white-bread sandwich, both foods were fundamentally processed. In fact, some foods’ nutrients are better absorbed by the human body when heated or cooked, like with tomatoes.
And this is where the fine line lies: it’s the way in which we eat the food.
Good vs bad
If we accept that simple cooking techniques like steaming, sauteeing, roasting or even pickling results in processed food, it is important to distinguish these harmless processes from those which are detrimental to our health. Anything highly processed like refined grains or pre-packaged burger patties that have been fortified with a host ingredients that one cannot even pronounce, are the ones we should avoid. The processes that these foods undergo strips the raw foods of their essential nutrients and fibre that we need for a well-nourished, balanced diet. So how do we navigate that line between processed and highly processed foods?
Your best bet
The easiest way to ensure that your food has seen as little processing as possible, is to buy as fresh and raw as you can. Opt for raw fruits and veggies that you can prepare yourself or go for pre-cut and frozen options if you want to save time. Buy meat in the simplest form you can find and get creative with the way you cook it. Why not try your hand at making home-made burger patties? It’s easier than you think and the taste will be unmatched.