In present day society processed food has gained too much importance. People prefer to use processed food because they are conveniently available and are easy to obtain throughout the year.
A processed food can be defined as any food that has been gone through chemical, mechanical or physical processing in the processing industries or at home and which has been altered from its natural state to a new state. These food include frozen, pasteurized, fried, condensed, dried, dehydrated, canned and homogenized food.
Benefits of Food Processing:
While not all processed food are beneficial for health but some are good to consume. There are other benefits too of consuming processed food.
- Processed food is conveniently available everywhere as compared to natural food stuff. In some remote areas though natural food stuff is better at hand than processed food.
- Many seasonal fruits and vegetables are available in only few months of the year in natural form but canned vegetables and fruits are available round the year.
- Milk is pasteurized to kill bacteria which makes it germs free. Drinking pasteurized milk is better than drinking fresh milk.
- Processed food is sometimes cheaper than naturally available food stuff.
- Processed food is sometimes fortified with nutrients like calcium and other minerals to make it more nutritious.
- Most of the processed food need little or no cooking so its easy to eat it.
- The time, energy and cost to prepare food from natural food stuff equals that of processed food, so it does not pay too much to use natural food stuff.
- Sometimes processed food is much more easy to preserve than natural food stuff and spoilage occurs late in processed food.
- In heart diseases and in diabetes taking less calorie food is difficult at home. On the other hand their are variety of processed food available that are low in calories or have no calories. These food make it easy to use for diabetic and heart patients.
Risks Associated with using Processed Food:
Though their are benefits of using processed food but most of these benefits are linked with ease and convenience in using them. Otherwise their are problems that cannot be ignored.
- The Delicate Nature of Food Stuff: Many of the food stuff are so delicate in nature that their nutrients get destroyed during processing. Vitamins and specially water soluble ones are very easily destroyed. Processed food may have longer shelf life but their is no guarantee that vitamins and minerals will be present in that food for such a long time.
- Use of too much Salts or Sugar: Salt and sugar is usually used in canned food to preserve the food and to add taste. Use of too much salt and sugar is not good for health. Even latest researches suggest that raw fruits and vegetables should not be eaten with salt.
- Refined Food: By refining flour, rice and other food stuff many nutrients are lost. Whole grain wheat and rice is more nutritious than refined one. Whole grain flour is easy to digest and is good for your stomach. Refined flour causes constipation and many other GIT diseases.
- Processed Meat: Processed meat is most dangerous to eat because it can cause many diseases. Processed meat like ham, sausages and hot-dogs are one of the most unhealthy (junk) food.
- Baked Food: Baked food includes cookies, biscuits, cakes, and other confectioneries. These food are rich in sugar and in fats. Both of these ingredients cause many problems which even kids may know. Usually the fat that is used in cakes and cookies is of poor quality.
- Packaged Snacks: Packaged snacks like chips, pretzels, and crackers are zero nutrient foods. They are rich in salts, sugar and fats, otherwise they contain no other nutrient. Chips are usually made up of potatoes, in natural form potatoes contain calcium, vitamins and other minerals. By processing potatoes they lost all of these essential nutrients.
- Frozen Food: Processed frozen food should not be defrost and then froze again. Once defrost they should be taken at once. Freezing frozen food again and again make the food very dangerous for health.
- False Claims: Many processed food companies make false claims about the nutrients which they do not contain. By using excessive advertisements and promotional campaigns they make their products popular but in reality eating processed food never pays back the money you spent on it.
- Diseases Associated with Processed Food use: In recent researches it has been proved that long term use of processed food cause many diseases like cancer, heart problems, diabetes, liver, intestine and kidney problems. One can not ignore these issues while using processed food. On the other hand fresh fruits and vegetables are said to reduce chances of these diseases because they are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients.
How to Use Processed Food:
In modern society completely avoiding processed food is almost impossible but there are ways in which one can use processed food but stay out of the trouble.
- Use processed food in moderation.
- Do not not give processed food to infants and children.
- Read the label before purchasing any can or packet of food. Buy one that contain high quality unsaturated fats and are low in sodium and sugar.
- Do not purchase refined food stuff rather find one that have whole grain contents.
- Give preference to quality not only to the taste.
- Look for expiry date on the label and do not purchase products that are about to get expire in near future.
- Buy processed food that contain least additives and colorants and other artificial flavors and chemicals.
- Buy only from reputed stores and of reputed brands.
- Eat less but eat quality food.