Healthtips engine > Effects of Processed Foods on our Health - HealthTips Engine

Effects of Processed Foods on our Health

What Are Processed Foods, Why Processed Foods are Bad For Your Health

What Are Processed Foods, Why Processed Foods are Bad For Your Health?

So, you’ve probably heard that it’s best to reduce your intake of processed food as much as possible and increase your intake of whole foods for optimal health. That’s what a lot of people recommend and that’s what I recommend as well. But in reality, what are processed foods and are processed foods really bad? Are all processed foods equal? So, first of all what are processed foods?

Processed Foods

According to the academy of nutrition and dietetics, processed foods include foods that have been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving or preparing in different ways. Anytime we cook, bake or prepare food we’re processing food. So, actually, nearly all foods are processed at least to some extent. Like if you’re eating frozen veggies that have been pre-cut even if there’s like zero additives, these will be considered as processed vegetables.

Types of Processed Foods

Common processed foods aren’t just automatically unhealthy because they’ve been processed. You also need to look at the degree of processing and for this we can look at the nova food classification system which has its flaws but it’s a good way to get a general overview of the different categories of processed foods and to go from foods that are really minimally processed to ultra-processed foods. So nova helps people group foods according to the degree and the purpose of processing that they go through food processing as identified by nova means.  

“All of the physical, biological and chemical processes that food has to go through before it is actually prepared into a meal.”

So, it doesn’t involve anything that you would do to food items like cutting and cooking. There are four groups in this nova food classification.

1) Unprocessed Foods

Foods that are very minimally processed are unprocessed foods or non-processed foods. In this first food group, you can find foods like fruit and vegetables, grain, beans or any type of legumes, nuts and seeds and also animal products that haven’t been processed like meat, seafood, milk, yogurt with nothing added to them.

2) Processed Culinary Ingredients

Basically, these are the things that you can use to cook the food from the first category and that are directly extracted from these foods or from nature. This group include things like oil, butter, sugar, honey syrup etc.

3) Processed Food Categories

These are the foods from the first and second categories where we have added something to them. Something like oil, salt, sugar, canned vegetables that are stored in salt or vinegar. Things like fruits that are stored in sugar syrup, bacon, canned fish and the other things like these.

4) Ultra-Processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods are such foods that you can hardly tell that where they come from. They have been made from multiple different sources and it’s hard to recognize the actual food that they come from. The examples of ultra-processed foods are snacks, fatty sugary snacks, biscuits or cookies, ice cream, chocolate, candy, soda, any pre-prepared items like meals, pizza, pre-made burgers like burger patties. All of these things are included in the list of ultra-processed foods.
Now again like I’ve mentioned, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the ultra-processed foods are unhealthy for you and bad for you and that the number one food is necessarily super good for you. Based on scientific research, processed meat like red meats isn’t great for your health, yet they are in group one food.

Benefits of Processed Foods

  1. If you’re getting food that has already been processed to some degree then that means that you’re going to do less work in order to get it into your mouth.
  2. It is much difficult getting fresh veggies and cutting them up and doing all of that than getting canned ratatouille that has some additives to it but it’s still better than not eating veggies at all. So, you can also see it in that sense.
  3. There are some additives to these processed foods which are beneficial like you can have preservatives and that can help with storage.
  4. It can help save money as well because you can buy a food and you don’t have to eat it right away. It’s not going to expire right away. you can eat, you can wait a little bit.
  5. Price is also another factor which is in favor of most of the people. If you get like the fruit it’s going to be cheaper than getting a processed meal but the fruit is not going to feed an entire family of like six people but if you get processed pre-made pizza then you know that it’s a privilege for a lot of people to be able to make this choice between non-processed foods and processed foods.

Harms of Processed Foods

  1.   Processed foods are bad for you. If we’re looking at highly processed foods in general then they are definitely not as good for         your health as most unprocessed foods or minimally processed foods are.
  2.   They are most of the time less nutrient dense so if you eat like 200 calories of processed ultra-processed foods you may not be getting enough the fiber. You may not be getting enough vitamins, minerals, protein, and the things like that 
  3. Usually, ultra-processed food that are highly refined as well so again you’re going to be lacking most good nutrients
  4. Ultra-processed foods are also much higher in calories which for most people is a downside. If you’re trying to watch out for your calorie amount and you’re trying not to eat too much and have two big portions, then it’s going to be much harder to do that. When you’re eating mainly highly processed foods as they are very calorie dense and also they are highly palatable. So you’re more likely to go exceed your calorie limit. 
  5. Usually these foods contain more salt, sugar, fat and the things like that which are not beneficial for long term usage.

Diseases Caused by Ultra-Processed Foods

If you look at studies to back that up consistently research shows that people who eat diets that are high in ultra-processed foods have more risk of developing diseases and have a generally a lower life span and have more chance of being obese. some of these diseases include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart diseases
health requires healthy food

And people who eat diets that are richer and whole minimally processed foods have better life outcomes, better life expectancy, fewer diseases and overall lower BMI.

This doesn’t mean that you should be scared of processed foods at all. You’re able to still eat ultra-processed foods once in a while and those certain processed foods do have benefits but you also know that it’s important that you incorporate more whole foods into your diet and that will be better for your health.

How Can You Eat Whole Foods

We know that processed foods are okay but ultra-processed foods need to be avoided as much as possible and that whole foods need to be consumed as much as possible. Here are a few tips to kind of do this transition.

  1. You should focus on what you could be adding instead of what you can be taking away from your diet. If you’re focusing on all of the processed foods that you’re not allowed to eat anymore. If you’re telling yourself; I can’t have my favorite cookies anymore because it’s super processed. I can’t have my favorite burgers because they’re super processed. I can’t have this ready-made meal that it really saves my life. If you’re thinking about all of this then it’s going to be really hard to have a sustainable and balanced diet because you’re going to be in restriction and then you’re going to end up binging on all of these foods. Instead of focusing on this you should really try focusing on all of the great delicious non-processed foods that you can add into your diet
  2. If you’re more focused on creating a meal around one a particular vegetable that you love or having one fruit that you love for dessert or making a meal around like your favorite grain. If you’re focusing on all of these things then naturally you will have less room for the ultra-processed foods and it won’t seem like you just have to cut them out of your life entirely.
  3. If you’re eating mainly whole minimally processed foods that you really enjoy having like balanced meals where you’re eating enough, then naturally, you will have less room for the ultra-processed foods and they can be like treats that you have once in a while because if you’re not labeling them as bad and focusing on the fact that you can’t have them anymore then they’re not going to hold this huge power over you and you’re going to be able to have a healthy balanced meal.
  4. Have a cookie if you want or have a pizza night and then have a salad the next day. You can take whole foods pizza or whole foods cakes. You’re going to be able to balance that out but again you need to focus on all the great things that you can add and then also if you want to do more focused work in your quest to replacing your highly processed foods by more whole foods then I suggest that you take it little by little and that you do like step by step following the different groups.
  5. You don’t all of a sudden want to replace your like orange soda by one fresh orange. You know that’s going to be a little bit difficult to do right away but you can start replacing your favorite orange soda by fresh squeezed orange juice or you can take another flavor from fresh juice bar. Then after a while maybe you can try a real orange and then you have to do that little by little. You can also find alternatives like if your favorite meal is pizza then you can try homemade pizza with premade dough that you buy from the grocery store that you just have to pop in the oven and try to buy these ingredients on your own and to make your own dough and to make your own pizza much easier.
  6. Finally, you really need to try and make whole foods as convenient as processed foods because if you get home from a long day of work and you have to build an entire meal from scratch that’s not as appealing as if you could just pop a pizza into the oven like a pre-made pizza. So, this is where the healthy meal plans and meal prepping comes in. If you’re able to prepare your meals in one day so that you have your meal ready every single day that’s ideal but that’s not always possible. So, cook like every other day and every time you cook, double the portions so that you have leftovers for the day to come and that at least takes one day of cooking away.


You should be eating as much whole minimally processed foods as possible and try to limit ultra-processed foods but that don’t mean that ultra-processed foods are automatically unhealthy or bad for you or that you should cut them out of your life entirely. As usual it’s all about balance and if you’re able to incorporate ultra-processed foods that you really enjoy your diet once in a while then it’s actually healthier for you than trying to eat super clean and perfect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Verified by MonsterInsights