Are All Processed Foods Bad? They’re Better for You Than You May Think

It’s no secret that processed foods have taken over grocery stores. From prepackaged frozen dinners to chips with red dye, it’s hard not to find processed foods everywhere you shop. They’re often laden with preservatives, sugar, additives and other poor ingredients that impact your health.

That said, you may be surprised to know that not all processed foods are bad. Take a look to find out why.

How Are Processed Foods Made?

The term “processed foods” refers to any food which isn’t immediately fresh. You may think that processed foods only involve packaged, canned and bagged items that you grab from shelves or freezers. In reality, you make processed foods every day. That’s because raw ingredients technically become processed when you turn them into another form. 

Therefore, you “process” oranges when you cut and squeeze them for juice. However, you’ll note that more common methods for processing foods tend to be more involved. They exist within a range from minimally to heavily processed. The former level includes somewhat processed items like chopped nuts. The latter level encompasses more involved products such as frozen pizzas.

It’s safe to say that many processed foods are unhealthy. However, you can still find items on those lower levels that contain decent nutritional values. They’re not all doused with excess sodium and saturated fats.

Which Processed Foods Can You Eat?

Some particular food items need processing. For example, you can’t safely consume cow’s milk when it’s unpasteurized. Raw milk contains harmful bacteria and viruses that can lead to illness. A similar idea applies to other beverages, as well as canned fruits and wheat products. They’re processed to make them more accessible and nutritious.

In some cases, it’s better to choose processed foods. They’re sometimes less expensive than fresh alternatives, so you can save money while you eat healthily. It’s also true that many processed foods last longer than fresh ones. As a result, you don’t have to waste any food that you may not consume.

What to Avoid When You Choose Processed Foods

Still, remember to read labels so you can avoid particular ingredients. There are some specific ones you shouldn’t eat. Try to stay away from:

  • Added sugar and sodium.
  • Refined white flour.
  • High calorie and fat contents.
  • Processed meats, like hot dogs.

You won’t experience any adverse health implications when you have an occasional cookie, but you should limit your intake. These products are by no means healthy. It’s perfectly fine to indulge when you prioritize a diet with proteins, vegetables, fruits and grains.

The Final Verdict on Processed Foods

In short, you can eat some processed foods. There are various reasons why you may want to choose certain packaged items over fresh alternatives. However, you need to take care when picking products while you shop. The labels can tell you whether you should make another choice. Any option with high fat, sugar, calorie or sodium contents isn’t a good choice.

The best way to avoid processed foods involves spending more time in your kitchen. If you prepare your own meals, you know exactly what each dish contains. You can control your food’s ingredients to your heart’s content. This effort ensures your nutritional choices are ideal for your health.

It all comes down to balance. A few processed foods won’t hurt you, but you should always prioritize a nutritious, diverse plate for every meal.

Processed Foods Can Be Beneficial When Chosen Correctly

There are many valid reasons why people avoid processed foods. Mostly, they’re largely unhealthy, as they contain unnecessary added ingredients. That said, you can still enjoy some processed foods if you strive for moderation. A bag of chips won’t hurt you as long as you prioritize healthy options otherwise.