Processed Foods: Which Can I Include in My Diet?

· 5th August 2018
We normally think of processed foods as unhealthy or even harmful to our bodies. In certain cases, this is not always the issue.

It is getting more and more difficult to fill our shopping carts without including processed foods. Are all processed foods bad for your health? Which are safe to include in a healthy diet? What is the difference between processed and ultra-processed? Keep reading to learn the answers to all these questions.

What are processed foods?

One way to classify foods is by looking at how they have been manipulated from the time of harvest to when they are consumed. In other words, it is a matter of the changes they have undergone between their natural state and when they reach the person who is eating them. In terms of the degree of manipulation, there are three types of food:

  • Natural foods. These are foods without any added components, meaning that they arrive at the supermarket in their natural state. These foods can include fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Their main downside is that they spoil in a short period of time.
Supermarket aisle

  • Processed foods. These foods contain added nutrients that they do not have in their natural state. These nutrients are usually sugar, salt, or fat. Depending on the amount and types added, their healthiness will vary. These foods include olive oil, milk, smoked salmon, and marinated meat.
  • Ultra-processed foods. These foods are not natural, because they consist of industrially produced ingredients. The sole purpose of its composition is a product that appeals to the consumer. Ultra-processed food is harmful to your health, and the most common types include: pastries, junk food, and sausages.

Now that we have defined processed foods, let’s take a look at which ones are healthy. Contrary to what many people think, processed is not synonymous with harmful, but it does not mean that they are healthy either. Therefore, it is important to know how to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy processed foods.

Olive oil

Olive oil’s nickname is “liquid gold.” This says a lot about its qualities. It is a processed food product, as the makers manipulate the olives in order to produce the oil.

Woman pouring olive oil

Despite this fact, it is completely healthy. Its main properties are as follows:

  • Promotes the production of good cholesterol.
  • Regulates blood sugar levels.
  • Contributes to weight loss.
  • Prevents cell oxidation.

Whole-wheat pasta

Whole-wheat pasta is another clear example of how processed foods can be healthy. Cereals are available as natural, processed, or ultra-processed products. What we recommend is that you opt for the first two options, and never the third.

You may be asking: why whole-wheat pasta and not the kind we eat regularly? This is due to the fact that whole-wheat pasta contains the entire grain, and as such retains more properties. The bran is rich in fiber, the endosperm provides energy, and this food stuff has plenty of vitamins, proteins, and minerals.

Canned natural vegetables

Canned vegetables are a good option when we do not have time to cook. We recommend always having several cans handy. They are easy to prepare, healthy, and will help in a pinch.

Canned vegetables are a processed product because the makers wash, clean, cut and cook them. They also add water and salt to make them last longer. As you can see, this is a perfect example of a healthy processed food, because the makers add the elements that the food lacks naturally. These elements do not include fats or sugars.

You can eat plenty of other kinds of processed foods and still maintain a balanced diet. These include cut and frozen fish, minced meat, toasted nuts, yogurt, and fresh cheese.