Processed foods are foods that have undergone substantial modifications, moving them away from their original form. This process removes nutrients from them, whitens them, combines chemicals and other unnatural additives. As a result, it looks, feels and tastes different from its natural form. There is no FDA-approved definition of the term natural, except when it refers to meat or poultry.
For these products, natural refers to those that are minimally processed and contains no artificial additives. Practically all foods are processed in some way. So, saying that a food is processed doesn't always mean that it's not a healthy food option. Foods are processed for reasons of food safety or convenience, such as shelf life, or to make the product set faster.
Our milk is pasteurized, which means it's processed to keep it safe from bacteria, and that doesn't mean it's not a healthy food option. There are important differences between highly processed foods and minimally processed or unprocessed foods. Processing of any kind also reduces nutrient content and can even eliminate vital antioxidants that support immune health and protect cells from damage. Because research is still identifying other health-promoting compounds in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
It's difficult to tell what the total loss is during processing. In addition, the choice of fresh ingredients promotes a synergy of nutrients that would not necessarily occur if the products were processed. Even after the processed grains are enriched, the final product is less nutritious than the original whole grain. As a result, much of the fiber content is lost, making it difficult to meet the minimum guidelines set by the USDA of 25 to 30 grams per day.
Real foods are foods that have a single ingredient, unprocessed, unaltered foods made without chemicals or additives. Whereas processed foods are foods that have had their nutritional composition changed in some way. Processed foods include foods that have been cooked, canned, frozen, or packaged. In general, minimally processed and unprocessed foods are much richer in nutrients than ultra-processed foods.
At one end you have the healthiest options, such as whole foods, and at the other end are highly processed foods. In general, ultra-processed foods tend to be much higher in calories than minimally processed whole foods (. Executive leaders may be completely unaware that most of the food offered by dining services is simply a “hot service” program, with very little or no food prepared from scratch. Time and again, research shows that those who follow diets rich in nutrient-rich whole foods live longer and have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases than people who eat diets rich in ultra-processed foods.
Ultra-processed foods tend to be lower in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals and higher in salt and fat than whole, nutritious foods. Focus on buying mostly whole, minimally processed foods on a regular basis while reducing your intake of highly processed foods.