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Brightly coloured sweets as an example of processed foods
Brightly coloured sweets as an example of processed foods

Health and Fitness Tip of the Month: Processed Foods

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We hear a lot about processed foods and how they’re bad for our health, but what makes a food processed?

What are processed foods?

According to the NHS, processed foods are foods that have been altered some way during preparation. So, this can be anything from microwavable ready meals, to tinned fruits and vegetables. Some examples are:

  • Cereal
  • Cheese
  • Tinned foods
  • Bread
  • Crisps
  • Meats such as bacon and ham etc.

Are they as bad as we think?

Some ways of processing foods, such as freezing them, don’t cause any harm. However, other processing methods, such as those used to make cheap meats, might be just as bad as we think they are. But what is it that makes them so bad?

Processed foods, such as ready meals and cheap meats, often have lots of added fats, sugars and salts. Often we don’t even realise how much fat, salt and sugars are in the processed foods we eat. Leading to us consuming more than the recommended amount, without even realising it!

Fizzy drinks and sweet treats

People often make the mistake of thinking that all sugar is the same, so it doesn’t matter how you consume it. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

While all sugar molecules eventually get digested into either glucose or fructose, the type of sugar is not what has the biggest impact on our body. It’s how we consume these sugars that matters the most.

Liquid sugars such as fizzy drinks and fruit juices allow sugar to enter our body immediately. Causing blood sugar levels to spike and putting our bodies under a lot of pressure. Whereas, if we were to eat an apple, it takes longer for the sugar to enter the body because the process is more gradual. Apples and other fruits also contain a lot of nutrients and fibre, in comparison to just sugar.

How can I reduce the amount of processed food I eat?

Avoiding processed foods can be hard because they’re everywhere, not to mention convenient. But, if you’d like to cut down the amount you eat, you can:

  • Cook your own meals – This way you know all the ingredients going into each of your meals and can control the added sugar and salt contents.
  • Avoid convenience foods – Ready meals and on-the-go snacks are often heavily processed, so are best to be avoided.
  • Buy fresh instead of tinned – Buying your fruit and veg fresh instead of tinned allows you to get as much nutrients as possible from them.

If you’re unsure whether or not a product is processed, consider if it can be made by a person, or whether it would have to be made by a machine. Processed foods will need machines to be made, but natural foods won’t.

To find out more about the impacts different foods can have on our health, visit https://goo.gl/UrK76g.

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