Skip to main content

Sponsored Content

Understanding Processed Foods

Apr 20, 2015 03:42AM ● Published by Family Features

With all the noise about foods you should or shouldn’t feed your family, it can be difficult to make a confident decision while perusing those grocery store aisles.

One type in particular – processed food – is often vilified in today’s food environment, but that shouldn’t necessarily be the case. Processing foods can have benefits to improve food’s shelf-life, reduce food waste, conserve resources and provide healthier and safer food for families everywhere.

“Defining processed foods has been challenging,” says Connie Weaver, Ph.D. and distinguished professor in Nutrition Science at Purdue University, who works to improve the communication and translation of health studies to the general public. “A common definition is essential so everyone can talk together and have a more meaningful conversation about processed foods.”

From a scientific standpoint, processed foods can include common kitchen staples such as bread, cheese, wine and yogurt. “To a scientist, processing is how many steps the manufacturer of the food requires to transform it from the raw materials into the food you eat,” Weaver explains.

Yet, people often misunderstand processed foods as those with empty calories or junk foods laden with sodium, fat and sugar. For consumers, it’s really not about the degree of processing; it’s about nutrient density or the formula of the food.

Advantages of processed foods
The nutritional value of processed foods depends on the formula or recipe, according to Weaver. Processing steps can be used to improve the nutrient content of a food. For example, manufacturers are reducing sugar, sodium and fat to improve the health of some foods, and adding or devising formulas for foods that have nutrients that people need more of, such as dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium and potassium.

Some of the most important nutritional deficiencies in the world have been resolved because foods have been enriched and fortified with nutrients. For example, adding iodine to salt cured goiter, an enlarged growth in the throat caused by iodine deficiency. Similarly, adding vitamin D to milk in the United States has cured rickets, the bowing of legs in children due to deficiency. More recently, medical foods for people with diseases who can’t tolerate the risk of bacteria or infection rely exclusively on processed foods.

Soy beverages are another example of processed food. Weaver’s research team at Purdue University studied calcium absorption from a soy beverage enriched with calcium and found it just as bioavailable, or absorbable, as cow’s milk. That caused the U.S. Department Agriculture to allow calcium-fortified soy beverages in school lunch and breakfast programs as an alternative to milk.

Before eliminating processed foods from your family’s diet, it’s important to understand the true definition, as well as the many associated benefits, Weaver advises. Processed foods enable us to have safe, nutritious and affordable food available year-round. Additionally, to feed the world, every method will need to be considered, including processing, to feed the masses and reduce waste.

Consumers interested in learning more about food can visit www.bestfoodfacts.org, which houses information from more than 170 university-based experts and registered dietitians.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (woman shopping)

Sponsored by Center for Food Integrity

Family Features Family Features Food
  • 32nd Annual Craft & Vendor Show

    10/21/2017
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    This show spotlights a selection of arts and crafts designed and created by the artist and also a...


  • Low Cost Pet Vaccine Clinic in Lisle

    10/21/2017
    09:00AM — 01:00PM

    Every Saturday from 9:00AM-1:00PM the Pet Well Clinic in Lisle offers affordable vaccines, microc...


  • 32nd Annual Craft & Vendor Show

    10/21/2017
    09:00AM — 03:00PM

    This show spotlights a selection of arts and crafts designed and created by the artist and also a...


  • Sculpture on the Prairie

    10/21/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine Line Creative Arts Center is proud to annouce it's first Sculpture on the Prarie exhibit. E...


  • Geneva Park District's Kids' Zone Hiring Event

    10/21/2017
    10:00AM — 01:00PM

    Join us at Sunset Community Center between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm for our Kids’ Zone Hiring Event, ...


  • Million Dollar Quartet

    10/21/2017
    01:30PM

    Paramount Theatre's rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener is Million Dollar Quartet, the wild...


  • ZOMBIES WANTED

    10/21/2017
    02:30PM — 09:00PM

    Interested in becoming a zombie? We need volunteers, ages 14 & older, to be transformed into the ...


  • Zombie Apocalypse!

    10/21/2017
    04:30PM — 08:00PM

    It's a ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! Will you survive? Participants will navigate the land of the un-dead...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    10/21/2017
    07:30PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the Worl...


  • Live Music

    10/21/2017
    09:00PM — 11:55PM

    Join us on historic Bourbon Street in Jambalaya at Pheasant Run Resort for live bands every Satur...


  • Comedy at Zanies

    10/21/2017
    09:45PM

    See nationally known comics along with some of the country’s hottest new talents for a night full...


Neighbors Magazines
Neighbors Magazines, 28 South Water Street, Batavia, IL 60510, 630-995-3482, www.welcometoneighbors.com
Contact us