Processed foods are undoubtedly delicious, but they’re equally unhealthy. Most processed foods pose the risk of heart conditions, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. They’re also difficult to digest, and thus, they can cause digestion problems. So, it’s best to avoid such foods, and if you can’t entirely avoid them, eat them in moderation. Let’s look at some examples of processed foods, how unhealthy they are, and their possible healthy alternatives.
Let’s get started.
Types of Processed Foods
Before delving into the examples of processed foods, let’s learn the types of processed foods and how unhealthy they are. Processed foods are of the following types:
- Minimally Processed Foods: These foods are slightly processed to increase their shelf life. These include pasteurization, fermentation, freezing, vacuum-packing, refrigeration, etc. Most fruits, vegetables, and dairy products fall into this category, and they’re not generally unhealthy.
- Processed Culinary Ingredients: These ingredients are derived from minimally processed foods by procedures like milling or grinding.
- Processed Foods: Some foods have added sugar, salt, or fats. They fall under this category. Some examples include cheese, bread, etc.
- Ultra-Processed Foods: Also known as highly-processed foods, ultra-processed foods include added colors and preservatives to preserve taste, texture, and shelf stability. Examples include sugary drinks, chips, cookies, etc.
Examples of Processed Foods: Some Foods to Avoid
Although all processed and ultra-processed foods carry health risks, some foods are more dangerous. If consumed in large amounts for long, they can cause conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Let’s look at some of these foods and their healthier alternatives.
Almost all fish and meat products you consume are processed to a certain extent. However, some of them are really unhealthy. Let’s take bacon, for example. Bacon contains a substantial amount of sodium and saturated fat, which can lead to hypertension, obesity, and heart problems.
If you’re looking for healthier alternatives to processed meats, you can opt for avocado, eggs, and carrot bacon.
Sugar in itself is extremely harmful. It increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and obesity. It also causes inflammation in your body. Moreover, sugary drinks are highly processed and contain unhealthy preservatives like sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate.
Some healthy alternatives to sugary drinks are iced tea, freshly squeezed lemonade, sparkling water, and maple water.
Instant Noodles: Examples of Processed Foods
Instant noodles are a quick-meal solution for a lot of people, especially students and working professionals. However, please note that instant noodles are highly processed and contain astronomical levels of carbs and sodium. What’s worse, they have almost zero nutrition value.
A healthier alternative to instant noodles is noodles made of courgette. Also known as zoodles, courgette-based noodles have a better nutritional value and are minimally processed.
Frozen and Microwavable Meals
Like instant noodles, frozen and microwavable meals are a quick choice for people who want to eat something quickly and instantly. They are convenient, as they are ready to eat, and you can put them in the microwave, heat them, and eat them. However, these foods tend to have high amounts of sugar, sodium, and fat, which can cause problems like hypertension, diabetes, and heart conditions.
Not that all frozen meals are dangerous, but some of them are. If you want to continue enjoying frozen foods, go for batch cooking and freezing. You can make your own healthy meals and then freeze them for days.
Fruit Snacks: Examples of Processed Foods
Many companies brand fruit snacks as healthy, which is often not the case. Fruit snacks may seem healthy because they have snacks, but they are highly processed for increased shelf life. They also have added sugar, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
A healthier alternative to fruit snacks is, obviously, real fruit. There’s nothing better than consuming real, natural fruit. It contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber — all unaltered.
Butter and Margarine
If you thought margarine was a healthier alternative to butter, you aren’t alone. When margarine first gained popularity, many people thought it was healthier than butter. However, it has a lot of trans fat, which is extremely unhealthy.
If you’re looking for something healthy to spread on your bread, opt for peanut butter or mashed avocado.
Savory Snacks and Crisps: Examples of Processed Foods
French fries, potato chips, and other crisps and savory snacks are unhealthy. They are highly processed and carry artificial preservatives to increase their shelf life. Ask yourself this. When you eat potato chips, do they ever feel like potatoes?
Now, what can you eat instead of such snacks? A healthier alternative is to bake your own crisps. All you need to do is slice some potatoes, season them, and add a little oil.
Coated and Flavored Nuts
Nuts are healthy. They’re a great source of protein. However, flavored and coated nuts aren’t essentially healthy. They have a lot of salt and sugar, which can affect your heart health and increase your weight.
The best alternative to flavored nuts is real nuts. They don’t have any added sugar or salt, so you consume only what the nuts have.
Let’s end this list with one of the most popular couch snacks in the world, ready-made popcorn. Whether you’re planning to watch a movie or football game, the first thing that comes to your mind is getting a large bowl of ready-made popcorn.
Popcorn is an amazing couch snack, and natural popcorn is quite healthy. However, ready-made popcorn contains a lot of salt and fat, making it quite unhealthy.
Instead of eating ready-made popcorn, you should make your own popcorn. It’s fresh, and you can control the amount of salt and fat you add. You can even eat it without adding any salt at all.
Conclusion: Examples of Processed Foods
Eating healthy is crucial. We eat a lot of unhealthy food every day, and some of it can increase the risk of health concerns like hypertension and diabetes. Fortunately, there are several healthy alternatives you can opt for. Always look for foods that have no preservatives and added salt or sugar. Your best bet is to cook food yourself so you are in complete control of what you consume.