We regularly hear that processed foods are not good for health. Truth or myth?
What’s wrong with food processing?
There are three major criticisms of food processing and how it affects the nutritional quality of foods. The first is that processing lowers the nutrient content of a food either by exposing it to heat or by discarding a nutrient-rich portion. Secondly, during processing so-called ‘nutrients of concern’, such as saturated fat, salt and sugar, may be added. A third criticism is that processing may alter the nature of a food unfavourably, for example, by increasing its glycaemic index.
All of these things are true, so processed foods are obviously worse for health than unprocessed foods. Right?
Not so fast.
What’s right with food processing?
If you buy a piece of lean rump steak from your local butcher, do you eat it in its natural raw form or do you toss it into a hot frying pan first? Yes, this heat processing causes some loss of nutrients but we do it because cooked meat tastes so much better than raw meat. Also, cooked meat is much safer to eat than uncooked meat.
The same issues apply when food is processed by a food manufacturer. Safety is the paramount concern and strict regulations must be adhered to. Modern processed foods are so safe that any breakdown in food safety standards usually makes front page news.