PROCESSED vs UNPROCESSED FOOD - WHAT THE TERMINOLOGY REALLY MEANS
Many foods are processed in one way or another, but how do we differentiate between the different types of processed foods and how to manage them as part of a holistic diet UNPROCESSED FOODS: These foods have had minimal processing and resemble their original state. The processing may include cleaning, sprouting, chilling, fermenting, fat reduction, freezing, vacuum-packing, drying and pasteurizing. Generally, these foods have a shorter shelf life and often require further preparation before ingesting. However, there are few drawbacks to eating these foods; they should make up the majority of your diet as they are nutrient dense and fibre rich, making them satiating. I like to refer to these as “always” foods. Examples of these foods include: • Fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables • Intact whole grains and non-flour grain foods eg. Steel-cut oats, bulgur, corn grits • Whole beans and legumes, eg. Lentils, black beans, chick peas, kidney beans etc. • Raw and shelled nuts and seeds • Unflavoured and whole, low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese • Eggs • Fresh and frozen poultry, meat and seafood • Naturally fermented foods with the addition of only salt, herbs and spices, eg.miso, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut and chutney • Culinary herbs and spices in their natural state, ground or freeze-dried and no added chemicals eg. Ginger, turmeric, garlic, cumin, etc. PROCESSED FOODS: These include foods extracted from unprocessed foods, in order to concentrate certain parts of that food or increase their shelf life. Often these foods undergo milling, refining, hydrogenation or hydrolysis as well as include additives or enzymes. They have a higher calorie content and may not be as nutritious or satisfying as their unprocessed roots. Think of these as “sometimes” foods. Examples of these foods include:
• Butter • Cheese • Cream • Corn syrup • Dried fruits • Gluten-containing flour/products • Gluten-free flour/products • Lactose • Lard • Margarine • Milk protein extracts • Noodles and pasta • Sugar and sweeteners including honey, maple syrup and molasses • Breakfast cereals • Vegetable oils
HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS:
These foods often have often been subject to baking, frying or deep-frying. Many also have non-food chemical additives, flavour enhancers, colours and preservatives. Because of this, these foods trigger the brain’s reward centre and alter the taste buds, making them “more-ish”!! Unfortunately, these types of foods can have deleterious effects on many aspects of our health and can compromise the gut microbiome.
These we will classify as "occasional" foods.
Examples of these foods include:
• Bacon/deli meats
• Canned soups
• Cereals and bars
• Fast food- pizza, hot dogs, burgers, nuggets, fries etc
• Ice cream
• Soft drinks
Now more than ever it’s vital we look after our health and while lockdowns can spur on fitness challenges for some, many people are feeling flat and anxious and reach for foods that offer instant gratification by stimulating dopamine in our brain’s reward centre. This short-lived “fix” rapidly wanes and has us rummaging the pantry for more of the same soon after. In the meantime, it does nothing to help lift our emotions or improve our mood. In fact it can make us feel worse for succumbing to “junk” food and not nourishing our bods.
I am certainly not trying to be evangelical about this, just trying to create a classification system of foods as always/sometimes/occasional.
Follow the 80/20 rule with the last 2 categories making up the 20% of your diet.
Life is about enjoyment and I, for one, have a super sweet tooth that needs taming. But I allow myself to have some healthier sweet treats and I ensure I thoroughly enjoy them…savouring each mouthful and appreciating the taste, texture, smell and even sound!
Moderation and mindfulness my friends!