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Question
Posted by: Sebe | 2010-09-07

What exactly are processed foods?

Hi Doc

Apparently a healthy diet is one that, apart from other things, generally excludes processed foods. I''m always confronted with the question of what these are. I thought canned foods were processed but canned pilchards, tuna and baked beans are apparently ''good foods''. I thought cold meats are bad but apparently ham is part of the ''good food''. I''m not usually in the mood to cook, then I''m tempted to get a can of something but then I feel like I''ll messed up my ''healthy'' eating plan. Please shed some light on this issue. Does eating a can of lentils differ a lot in nutrition compared to self cooked lentils for instance?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageDietDoc

Dear Sebe
This is an interesting question. On the one hand, modern people probably all eat some processed food at some time or other and much of this processed food is not harmful, like the can of lentils you mention or tomato puree (rich in lycopene). However, highly processed grains and cereals like white bread, maize meal, white flour and foods made with white flour like cakes, pies, etc have had most of their nutrients removed by the milling and sifting process. Other foods like high-fat, high-sugar and high-slat snacks and cold drinks are all low in protective nutrients and probably represent processed foods/drinks at their worst when it comes to health. Using healthy foods like lentils or beans which happen to be canned, will not detract from your healthy diet. It is all a question of balance - don't overdo the highly processed foods and eat unprocessed foods like fresh fruit and vegetable, unsifted grains (brown rice, crushed wheat unsifted maize meal, brown, wholewheat, rye or low-GI bread) as often as possible.
Best regards
DietDoc

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Our users say:
Posted by: DietDoc | 2010-09-07

Dear Sebe
This is an interesting question. On the one hand, modern people probably all eat some processed food at some time or other and much of this processed food is not harmful, like the can of lentils you mention or tomato puree (rich in lycopene). However, highly processed grains and cereals like white bread, maize meal, white flour and foods made with white flour like cakes, pies, etc have had most of their nutrients removed by the milling and sifting process. Other foods like high-fat, high-sugar and high-slat snacks and cold drinks are all low in protective nutrients and probably represent processed foods/drinks at their worst when it comes to health. Using healthy foods like lentils or beans which happen to be canned, will not detract from your healthy diet. It is all a question of balance - don't overdo the highly processed foods and eat unprocessed foods like fresh fruit and vegetable, unsifted grains (brown rice, crushed wheat unsifted maize meal, brown, wholewheat, rye or low-GI bread) as often as possible.
Best regards
DietDoc

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