What is the difference? Definitions vary, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture says anything that changes the fundamental nature of an agricultural product – heating, freezing, dicing, juicing – is a processed food.
In my experience fiber is much like the weather in Mark Twain’s wonderful quote, “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.” Well, almost. Most people know about fiber and some even work on consuming enough. But not most of us.
Practically all foods undergo some form of processing before they are ready to eat—from simple processes like cutting and cooking to more complex processes like homogenizing, pasteurizing, fermenting, fortifying, refining, hydrolyzing, and extruding. Processing makes raw foods more palatable, minimizes spoilage, changes texture and flavor, modifies nutrient content, and creates convenience.
The Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter says that some processing, like freezing, pasteurization, vacuum-packing, and (non-alcoholic) fermentation have beneficial effects on health: preserving nutrients, increasing digestibility and availability of some nutrients, or preventing food-borne illness. But in other cases, processing has some negative health effects: partial hydrogenation of fat, for example, creates trans fats that have been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease; refining of grains reduces nutrient content and creates rapidly digested concentrated starch which increases risk for weight gain, diabetes, and other negative health effects; and addition of excess salt and sugar is tied to a whole host of illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Having a clear understanding of these health impacts and what makes a food “processed” is crucial to good dietary decision making.
I have been writing positively about the value of nuts in the diet for some years now. If you would like to read some of those posts, type n u t s into the search box on the right.
Increasing nut consumption by just half a serving (14 g or ½ oz) a day is linked to less weight gain and a lower risk of obesity, suggests a large, long term observational study, published in the online journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.
Substituting unhealthy foods, such as processed meats, French fries, and crisps (potato chips) with a half a serving of nuts may be a simple strategy to ward off the gradual weight gain that often accompanies the aging process, suggest the researchers.
On average, US adults pile on 1lb or nearly half a kilo every year. Gaining 2.5-10 kilos in weight is linked to a significantly greater risk of heart disease/stroke and diabetes.
Nuts are rich in healthy unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre, but they are calorie dense, so often not thought of as good for weight control. But emerging evidence suggests that the quality of what’s eaten may be as important as the quantity.
Experts agree plants should make up a large part of a healthy dietary pattern. Humans eat plant roots (carrots and radishes), stems (asparagus and celery), leaves (leafy greens), seeds (including whole grains), flowers (broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke), and the seed-bearing “fruits” of plants (including fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts). All are packed with important health-promoting nutrients, and countless studies have found associations between consuming diets higher in unprocessed plant foods and lower risk for a wide range of disorders such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. But recommendations to eat a “plant-based” diet can be misleading. “I really dislike the term plant-based to describe a preferred or healthy diet,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and editor-in-chief of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. “Not all animal-based foods are bad, and most of the worst things in the food supply are technically plant-based.” A vegetarian diet built on pizza, macaroni-and-cheese, and baked goods may be “plant-based,” but it’s far from a healthy dietary pattern. Continue reading →
I am not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat a lot of meat generally out of concern for the fats mostly. They can really damage the system. That is my own decision and what you do is your business. It is worth knowing, however, that processed meats are another level up in terms of troubling our bodies. Following is what the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter had to say on the subject.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meats. While that number pales in comparison to the one million or so global cancer deaths related to smoking, it is significant enough to warrant a hard look at processed meats in our diets, especially because they are also associated with cardiovascular disease and other health conditions.
Processed Meat: “Generally speaking, a processed meat is one that has been salted, cured, smoked, fermented or undergone other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation,” says Joel B. Mason, MD, professor of medicine and nutrition at Tufts and director of the HNRCA Vitamins and Carcinogenesis Laboratory. Examples of processed meats include hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausage, corned beef, deli meats, and jerky. Continue reading →
Most people are aware that they need to cut down on their salt (sodium) intake. That’s a good start. However, some ‘facts of life’ prove extremely helpful in the lower sodium quest, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Spoiler alert: your table salt shaker isn’t the main culprit.
Restaurant foods and commercially processed foods sold in stores accounted for about 70 percent of dietary sodium intake in a study in three U.S. regions.
Salt added at home during food preparation or at the table accounted for a small fraction of dietary sodium.
These findings confirm earlier recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to lower dietary sodium by decreasing the amount in commercially processed foods.
In the war of the waistline there are many skirmishes and outright battles. We win some and we lose some. Hopefully, on balance, more of the former and less of the latter. The battle is waged over a long period of time. Besides calorie consumption and exercise, there are other variables that enter into the equation, including genetics, sleep, stress and just the difference in individual bodies.
I have been fortunate in that the mathematical part has worked out fairly consistently and predictably for me, but I know that for many folks, they hit a plateau and can’t seem to penetrate it. They can starve themselves and still not get through.
For me, the most important part of the article was the following two paragraphs:
“As it turns out, many biological factors affect the storage of calories in fat cells, including genetics, levels of physical activity, sleep and stress. But one has an indisputably dominant role: the hormone insulin. We know that excess insulin treatment for diabetes causes weight gain, and insulin deficiency causes weight loss. And of everything we eat, highly refined and rapidly digestible carbohydrates produce the most insulin.My emphasis
“By this way of thinking, the increasing amount and processing of carbohydrates in the American diet has increased insulin levels, put fat cells into storage overdrive and elicited obesity-promoting biological responses in a large number of people. Like an infection that raises the body temperature set point, high consumption of refined carbohydrates — chips, crackers, cakes, soft drinks, sugary breakfast cereals and even white rice and bread — has increased body weights throughout the population.”Continue reading →