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How to avoid processed foods in your diet

Posted Mar 28 2010 10:00am


Processed foods should be kept at a minimum. I know it’s so hard for so many people to give up processed foods because they are seemingly so convenient, but at what cost?

Processed foods as the name would imply are not REAL foods and therefore don’t contain any REAL nutritional value.

Processed foods in my opinion are to blame for a lot of the obesity issues in North America. As the America Diet becomes the norm around the globe many countries are now dealing with many of the healthy issues that have been associated with the U.S. for so long.

>>> I wrote a post on the fastest countries on the planet and if you’ve missed it, you can catch it here: 10 fattest countries in the world: Obesity Statistics

Recently I found a great Q & A from Nutrition Data where nutritionist Monica Reinagel answered a few questions from readers who wanted to know “How far do we need to go to avoid processed foods?”

You’ll find the answers quite telling:

How do you define processing?

Think of processing as a spectrum.  On one end of the spectrum, you might have a raw ear of corn. On the other end might be corn chips. In its journey from one end of the spectrum to the other, the raw corn is cut off the cob, cooked, dried, ground, combined with sugar, salt, and fat, shaped into chips, and fried.

We’d all immediately recognize corn chips as “processed” food. But where exactly do we draw the line between unprocessed and processed?  As soon as we cut the ear off the cob? When we boil it? When we grind it into flour? When we add sugar, salt, and preservatives? When we fry it?

People are going to draw that line in different places.  Some might consider cooked corn OK but ground cornmeal too processed.  I’d probably draw the line a step later, when the sugar, salt and preservatives are added.  But it’s obviously somewhat arbitrary.

Q. I am trying to reduce the amount of processed foods in my diet, and I recently learned that soy milk is a processed food; which leads me to wonder whether cow’s milk and other dairy products are also considered “processed”?   Would I be better off taking a supplement to get my vitamin D and calcium?

A. Yes, soybeans are cooked and pressed to make plain soy milk.  Commercially available cow’s milk is skimmed, homogenized, and pasteurized. So, both are “processed.” However, either one would be considerably less processed than a vitamin supplement, don’t you think?

I think the movement away from processed foods is a great idea!  But if avoiding “processed” foods means that you need to take a vitamin supplement to supply missing nutrients, I think you may have missed the point of the exercise!

Cooked vegetables and pasteurized milk are technically “processed foods.” And there are those who will argue that uncooked vegetables and unpasteurized milk are better for you. But I really don’t think we need to go that far to improve the nutritional quality of most people’s diets.

>>> If you are looking for ways to reduce the amount of processed foods you buy, let famed nutrition/food writer Michael Pollan guide you. This is the shortest read you’ll ever need to set you on the write course to a better health!

* Here’s what Pollan has to say about reducing processed foods from your diet:

1. Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize.

2. Don’t eat cereal that changes the color of your milk.

3. Eat more food that comes without packaging.

4. Look for foods with fewer than 5 ingredients in the ingredient list.

5. Avoid things made with ingredients that you don’t recognize as food.

6. Eat more whole intact grains and less flour.

7. Eat most of your fruit whole and unprocessed.

8. Eat at least some of your vegetables raw every day.

Michael Pollan is the author of these acclaimed books:

1. Omnivore’s Dilemma

> You can read my original review here: Omnivore’s Dilemma is a must read!

2. Defense of Food

3. Food Rules

If you have mastered the art of successfully reducing processed foods from your diet, I’d love to hear your tips. Do share them by leaving them in the comment box below:

This adapted from NutritionData

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>>>> If you’re viewing this healthy eating or healthy living tip in an aggregator that collects content from different sites, or as a re-blogged post, please check out the content from the REAL website at

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