Food has a direct impact on an individual’s well-being. Health-related concerns like diabetes, hypertension, heart-related issues, and obesity are on the rise worldwide. Our food choices contribute towards increasing the risk of developing these health issues. This gives us a valid reason to scrutinise our grocery lists.
Grocery carts are one of the best indicators of one’s health. What is going into the pantry is cooked. Easy to cook yet tasty foods are on the preference list of many due to a variety of reasons. For instance, people are busy and have less time to prepare meals, especially during the pandemic, where there is poor accessibility to healthy options. Packaged, easy to prepare foods to fall under the processed foods category.
What exactly are processed foods?
Foods that have undergone some kind of processing like baking, canning, freezing or even packing, and made into easy to prepare forms are termed processed foods. These foods are less healthy than whole foods. These products can be classified from minimally processed foods to ultra/highly processed foods depending on the degree of processing they have gone through.
Not all processed foods are completely unhealthy, like frozen vegetables and fruits, which still have some nutritive value as they involve minimal processing, At the same time, it is better to avoid highly processed foods as they contain additives, preservatives, hidden sugars and salts, and unwanted fats.
The key ingredients:
Foods that undergo processing require preservatives to increase the shelf life, additives and flavouring agents to enhance the flavour, artificial colours to make them look fresher and more palatable, and other ingredients like sodium, sugar and trans fats to increase taste and texture. It is recommended that you carefully check the list of ingredients and food labels while purchasing food items.
Excess sodium intake has been linked to hypertension and other related issues. Foods like canned and tinned items, frozen meals with cheese have a higher sodium content. Hypertensive people should look for better alternatives for these items. Monosodium Glutamate with high sodium content should be avoided. sauces are a classic example of high salt content items.
Excess sodium results in water retention and swelling. A serving of 300 milligrams or less than 100 gms is considered low.
Trans-fat – Trans-fats are produced during processing. Although it is a type of dietary fat, it is considered unhealthy. It adds up to bad cholesterol levels and might harm cardiovascular health and blood pressure. Having too much trans-fat is also associated with obesity and related complications.
Trans-fats are generally found in bakery items – like cakes, pastries, buns, khari, cream rolls, and in frozen meals like pizza. People with health conditions like diabetes should be careful while including these in their diet. Some high trans-fat products are also high in sugars. At times, even the zero trans fats products may have some amount trans-fat per gram.
All sweet foods contain excessive sugar content. Recipes are made attractive by adding sugar in some of the other forms . Even though we do not find sugar mentioned on the label, it is present with other names like fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, and coconut sugar, which are deceptive. A can of sugary drink or a piece of pastry with icing may just provide those extra calories in the form of sugars and puts a toll on the body to process it.
What are processed/junk foods?
- Chips (salted/ flavoured/plain)
- Flavoured nuts
- Bakery products
- Frozen items
- Breakfast cereals (a few are excessively sweet)
- Ready to make noodles, soups and breakfast items.
- Sugary drinks
- Canned products
- Tin packed items
- Buttery popcorn
The fear factors:
Processed foods require preservatives to increase their shelf-life, additives and flavouring agents to enhance the flavour, artificial colours to make them look more palatable and other ingredients like sodium, sugar and trans-fats to increase the taste.
We live in a world of advertisements, and are bombarded with a lot of food options at our fingertips. Fibre-rich biscuits, fortified foods, healthy breakfast cereal to name a few. But the real question is, are these foods providing the nutrients we need? The answer is simply. no!! What we get is empty calories (just the calories without nutrients). More often, taste and convenience overpower nutritional needs. This video covers the thought on processed foods.
It is extremely important to take control of what you put in your body. Choose packaged foods wisely! Opt for minimally processed foods. Home cooked food is the best. Whole foods can also be included whenever possible.
Have it, but mind your portion size:
Processed foods are addictive and calorie rich. Even a small portion of ultra-processed foods might exceed the total daily requirement for the above-mentioned ingredients. What is important is how often we have these, and the portion control. As mentioned above, one gets only calories from these. Having these occasionally might be a red flag for weight watchers, and also for the individuals with other health conditions. Healthy eating is the only path which directs us to total wellbeing.
For more insights on healthy eating, check our blog Healthy eating
Food has a direct impact on an individual’s total well-being. Health-related concerns especially diabetes, hypertension, heart-related issues, and obesity are on the rise worldwide. Our food preferences go a long way in increasing the risk of developing these issues at the early stage. These conditions can be prevented or managed if proper lifestyle changes are made at the right time. Smit Fit is one such platform that provides a holistic approach, especially to diabetic individuals to control their blood sugar levels and lead a happier life.
Your health depends on your choices. Choose packaged foods wisely! Opt for minimally processed foods. Fresh home-cooked food wins the battle!
And remember, when it is ready to eat food, label reading is a must! To gain some interesting insights check our blog reading between the lines – the how and why of reading food labels