These Processed Foods Are Good For You, Actually

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Processed foods have been getting a lot of heat in the news recently. But sometimes they can be unfairly demonised, as there are many foods that most would consider healthy that are processed in some way.

Firstly, it might be handy to look at what processed food actually means. The NHS describes it as being food that has been altered in some way during preparation.

This can be as basic as freezing, canning, baking or drying out. It doesn’t necessarily mean the product is laden with sugar, fat, salt and a cornucopia of chemicals you can’t pronounce.

There are levels to it, though

Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, came up with what’s known as the NOVA food classification system, which places food into four categories based on how processed they are. They include:

1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods

This includes produce such as fruit, vegetables, milk, fish, pulses, eggs, nuts and seeds that have no added ingredients and have been little altered from their natural state.

This includes foods that are added to other foods rather than eaten by themselves, such as salt, sugar and oils.

These are foods that are made by combining foods from groups one and two, which are altered in a way that home cooks could do themselves.

They include foods such as jam, pickles, tinned fruit and vegetables, homemade breads and cheeses.

Ultra-processed foods typically have five or more ingredients. They tend to include many additives and ingredients that are not typically used in home cooking, such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours. These foods generally have a longer shelf life.


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