When we talk about processed food being bad for our health we mean the heavily processed food – with lots of ingredients that work together to enhance the flavour, texture and stability of the product.
Foods that have been minimally processed – such as frozen vegetables and fruit, canned beans and jars of passata and tomatoes do not fall into this category. So why are these processed foods so bad for us?
They may increase risk of cancer
A 2018 study in the British Medical Journal linked ultra-processed foods with cancer. They found that a 10% increase in the consumption of ultra processed foods, such as packaged baked goods, fizzy drinks, ready meals, sugary snacks and reconstituted meat products resulted in a 12% increase in overall cancer and a 11% increase in breast cancer.
Fresh or minimally processed foods showed no increase in cancer rates.
They contain more salt, sugar and fat
The same study found that many of these heavily processed foods contained high levels of fat, sodium and sugar and lacked vitamins and fibre. Too much salt and sugar in your diet can cause obesity, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.
The fat in these products is likely to be trans fat – and therefore also linked to cancer.
They may cause overeating
Food manufacturers have created a ‘bliss’ point – a combination of fat and sugar, which our brain is wired to crave. Therefore it’s very easy to overeat these foods if we get started. The ingredients they choose lead us to overeat – and then buy them again!
They are high in refined carbs and low in fibre
Carbohydrates aren’t bad for us – however too many refined carbohydrates can lead us to craving them more by making our blood sugar spike and therefore we feel hungry several hours later. Many of the processed foods are high in refined carbohydrates and low in fibre. The fibre is needed to help us feel full and to help us to digest the food properly. So consuming lots of processed food will lead to us feeling hungry much quicker.
They are low in nutrients
Often processed food is stripped of its natural vitamins and minerals in the processing of them. They are usually put back in – but in a synthetic version, which our body can’t always recognise as well.
What has worried me in recent months is the increase in processed vegan foods on the supermarkets shelves. Studies have shown that these foods are even more filled with salt than the meat alternatives.
Just because a food is marketed as vegan does not make it healthy in any way. Vegan diets are not inherently healthier – it really depends on how you eat. Just like eating an omnivore diet can either be healthy – or not!
Cooking healthily doesn’t need to cost a fortune or take hours in the kitchen. All our recipes are quick and family-friendly and don’t contain lots of unusual ingredients.
Katharine Bright is a Registered Nutritional Therapist with a clinic in Sevenoaks. To book an appointment call her on 07769 636352 or email email@example.com. She is co-founder of The Health Boost (www.thehealthboost.co.uk) – a website dedicated to providing a family friendly solution to healthy eating. For day-to-day healthy inspiration and new recipes follow them on Facebook and Instagram.