It’s not the tragic public health enemy that some would have you believe, here are 5 reasons why you SHOULD eat processed food.
All food is processed.
Unless you pulled it from the soil of your own organic garden and took a big bite out of it straight away, every single foodstuff that passes your lips has been processed to some extent. Whether by cleaning, peeling, shelling, cooking, or pureeing, food is processed so that it can be safely and enjoyably consumed by humans. Even the most local and organic vegetables are usually at least washed before they hit your dinner plate.
This processing is not a sign of diminished quality, it is simply a fact of modernisation. In days of old, when food wasn’t handled or processed properly, we incidentally had a lot more sickness and disease around.
The vast majority of cultures on our planet consume processed foods, with little harm to them as a direct result. The word processed conjures images of plastic-wrapped “Frankenfood” that is poisoning us all with its chemicals. Soft white bread, salty bags of crisps and creamy chocolate bars all being common targets of this EVIL “processed” label. In reality, nothing is that dramatic. Plus, every single thing in the universe contains a multitude chemicals, it’s kinda how things work.
A diet devoid entirely of processed foods would be close to impossible, and would make for some very dirty fingernails.
On that note, here are 5 reasons why you SHOULD eat processed food. (Scroll down for a read, or click on the video instead!)
1. Just because something is processed does not mean it is unhealthy
Of the 5 reasons why you should eat processed food, this is the most important message to take away from this post.
Thanks to mainstream media, our immediate image of “processed food” is a bag of sweets, packet of biscuits or a cheap shop-bought cake. We also forget that nut butters, protein powders, tofu, hummus, and many other things that are considered “healthy” are also processed.
Any diet guru will tell you to eliminate nasty processed foods, dubbing them the cause of weight gain, inflammation and even some cancers. They will then hypocritically tell you to drink smoothie bowls made with superfood powders, protein powders and long-distance-imported tropical dried fruits, as if they aren’t just as processed as a loaf of bread. Some will even tell you to swap out EVIL REFINED SUGAR for some weirdly-named artificial sweetener or syrup instead, trusting in its lack of “refined” sugar more than its even further processed state. It just doesn’t make sense.
Many foods, when frozen or dried, can retain exactly the same nutritional profile they had before being processed. Some foods, such as breakfast cereals and breads, are even fortified with vitamins and minerals in order to help consumers reach a healthy quota while still enjoying their favourite foods. Just because a foodstuff has been handled by other humans or by machines in factories before it reaches your plate, does not immediately make it bad for you.
2. Processed foods are widely accessible
Walk into any store that sells food (or even some clothes shops apparently, since when was selling all those sweets at the till a thing??) and you’ll find some convenient, tasty, processed food. Be it a classic ham and cheese sandwich sealed in a triangular box, a bottle of orange juice, a cereal bar, or even just a nice shiny apple, they will all be processed somehow before finding their way to the shelves.
While it would be gloriously sweet to eat freshly picked fruits and vegetables on our lunch break every day, it’s neither likely nor practical for most humans. Living on a diet of sustainable, local and seasonal food just is not possible, let alone preferable, for many.
Working full time requires quick and convenient food to keep us fuelled and happy, and often our local corner shop or sandwich bar doesn’t carry fresh organic carrots still covered in good old British soil for us to crunch through for lunch. Processed food is easy to find and often easy to eat during our busy schedules, whether we cook it at home after a long day or grab it in our 15 minute break. This doesn’t make us lazy or impure. We are simply hungry people that need to fuel ourselves.
3. Processed food is affordable
Along a similar vein, processed foods are ideal in their price accessibility. Fresh, organic produce is hard to come by when you do not have the income to justify it. Sometimes tins of soup or baked beans, mopped up with cheap toasted white bread are the most affordable ways to feed the hungry mouths in our homes. Struggling families can rely on the simplicity and affordability of many processed foods to get by.
It is also generally cheaper to purchase processed foods, with their longer shelf life, in bulk or from a supermarket freezer than it is to be picking or purchasing fresh “unprocessed” food every couple of days. There is nothing incorrect or inappropriate about that.
The resentment and public distaste towards processed foods can often be entrenched in classism. While it is fashionable to be sipping expensive green juice and eating avocado salads, the vast majority of us simply cannot justify eating this way. £4 spent on a two-pack of avocados and some leafy greens does not go as far as £4 spent on white rice, dried beans and cheap meat. Students, single parents and elderly people may have to rely on cheap, processed foods to fuel themselves on their budgets, and condemning them for this is nothing short of ridiculous.
4. There is no direct link between processed food and poor health
The media majorly hyped up a recent study into “ultra” or “hyper” processed foods, sending us all into a frenzy of social media self-diagnosis. The jokers in the comments amusingly chirped, “here for a good time, not a long time,” while the mumsnet misery brigade decided to chime in with, “well OBVIOUSLY, they are POISON and it’s no wonder EVERYONE is OBESE and DYING!!” I bet they’re fun at parties.
The study in question stated that a link between ultra-processed foods and cancer had been “suggested.” So in other words, eating processed food is not a definitive cause of cancers or illness. These articles failed to publish the lifestyles or income of the human subjects. It also failed to give any scientific basis for its use of the term “ultra” processed in relation to food.
Therefore, it allowed the usual suspects of British media outlets to unfurl irresponsible headlines, suggesting as usual that we are all fat, lazy, poor and should change our lives IMMEDIATELY. Yawn.
Processed foods, as we know, can range from superfood powders to Quorn nuggets. It would take a very lengthy and thorough study to prove that ANY processed foods could be directly linked to cancer or poor health. Don’t believe the hysteria. Enjoy your crisps.
5. Processed food tastes good!
There’s just no escaping this fact. Processed food tastes great.
From cheap ready meals laced with monosodium glutamate (which is not the devil you think it is) to the moistest of rich sugary chocolate cakes, companies know how to make things taste good to our mortal mouths. Enjoying these things, no matter the quantity or quality, should not be sinful or regrettable.
Obviously, fresh ripe fruit can be gloriously sweet, and crunchy vegetables can be pleasantly refreshing, but so can a cold can of Coca Cola or a soft-serve vanilla ice cream. As I’ve touched upon above, that dense chewy vegan fruit bar and that fluffy chocolate whey protein powder also taste good, because they have been formulated for our ease and pleasure too!
You are not a bad person for enjoying these processed foods, you are just a normal person. If you ask someone what their favourite food is, they are highly unlikely to respond with “cucumber!”
Think about it. If plain meats, fruits and vegetables had suited our ancestors’ tastes, we would never have utilised cooking or preserving methods to improve their flavour, safety or lengthen their shelf life. Our modern diet is a result of centuries of learning how to cook, season and preserve food because we have the means and privilege to do so. Denying this in favour of some kind of “whole” “raw” diet seems counter-intuitive, and of course, awkward.
Don’t let anyone (including yourself) shame your food choices, processed or not, even if you like pineapple on pizza.
I hope these 5 Reasons Why You Should Eat Processed Food help you out, or at least made you reconsider how you think about foods.
I would strongly encourage you to never buy into diets or “lifestyle changes” that tell you to limit processed foods, as they often simply translate to many weeks of expensive and repetitive food bills. Also, you’ll probably be pretty bored and miserable with the food that you can eat.
Processing is not some kind of evil contamination of our foods, is simply a fact of contemporary life, and there is absolute nothing wrong with that. Now eat up!