What is your definition of processed food?

Is it anything other than whole foods? Food that is simulated or fake? Ready to eat meals?

According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, processed foods are “Any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat.” That includes chopping, freezing, cutting, or drying food to preserve nutrients and freshness.

By that definition, the mere act of chopping your vegetables and cooking them is considered processed.

Huh, what?! Are you totally confused?

Many people are.

Don’t assume ‘processed’ means inferior or not nutritious.

Processed food has prehistoric origins when about 2 million years ago, humans put flame to food and discovered cooking. Then came fermenting, drying, preserving with salt, and other primitive food processing methods.

However, early humans were not cooking Twinkies that contain 37 ingredients, but only 5 of them are recognizable – Flour, egg, water, sugar, and salt. Nor were cave dwellers consuming cheap and fast foods such as fries, burgers, and other oily foods that will leave your body with fewer nutrients than it needs. Our ancestors ate whole foods that were processed to make them palatable or to preserve their nutrients. Don’t assume that “processed” means inferior or not nutritious in all cases. These types of food are on a continuum ranging from minimally processed foods to foods that could withstand years on a shelf in the dark without spoiling (yes, containing tons of preservatives that our bodies cannot digest).

For example, that pre-packaged lettuce you purchased for dinner or the lean chicken breasts that are conveniently packaged for you to grab and go at your local store. Both of these are examples of processed foods – however, these foods are also considered foods that are good for you.

Whole foods are the best choice for optimal health.

On the other hand, farther along the spectrum are convenience foods such as ready-to-eat meals, baked goods, sodas, and foods eaten in restaurants that are heavily processed. Manufacturers use, what I like to call, a brew of sugar, salt, preservatives, steroids, trans fats, and other unhealthy additives to make the food look appealing and extend the shelf life.

And while we live in a society where “grab and go” convenience food fits our go-go lifestyle, these highly processed and preserved foods deliver very little nutritional value offering empty calories.

𝘛𝘏𝘌 𝘍𝘖𝘖𝘋 𝘠𝘖𝘜 𝘌𝘈𝘛 𝘊𝘈𝘕 𝘌𝘐𝘛𝘏𝘌𝘙 𝘉𝘌 𝘛𝘏𝘌 𝘚𝘈𝘍𝘌𝘚𝘛 𝘈𝘕𝘋 𝘔𝘖𝘚𝘛 𝘗𝘖𝘞𝘌𝘙𝘍𝘜𝘓 𝘍𝘖𝘙𝘔 𝘖𝘍 𝘔𝘌𝘋𝘐𝘊𝘐𝘕𝘌 𝘖𝘙 𝘛𝘏𝘌 𝘚𝘓𝘖𝘞𝘌𝘚𝘛 𝘍𝘖𝘙𝘔 𝘖𝘍 𝘗𝘖𝘐𝘚𝘖𝘕.”

𝘈𝘕𝘕 𝘞𝘐𝘎𝘔𝘖𝘙𝘌⁣

So, what is the best choice for optimal health that feeds our body and brain? Whole foods are the way to go. Choose raw foods, like fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains, and prepare meals at home with lean protein where you can control what they contain and how much of it. This might take a little bit of planning, but I know you can do it.

Dana