Q: Can processed foods be part of a healthy diet?
A: Most foods have some level of processing. Even natural or organic foods may be processed. The spectrum ranges from minimally processed (bagged beans, roasted nuts, frozen fruits / vegetables) to highly processed (snack foods, ready-to-eat meals, precooked meats).
In fact, some processed foods can be healthy when the processing is on the minimal end of the spectrum, provides access to healthy food not readily available, prevents spoilage or increases food safety (pasteurized milk, canned fruits / vegetable, vacuum sealed products).
However, most diets are getting too much highly processed foods. A 2016 study found that highly processed foods contribute 60% of calories and 90% of added sugars to American diets. Similarly, Americans get 70% of their sodium from processed and restaurant foods
- How to limit highly processed foods?
- Read food labels
- Eat at home
- Avoid the salty six (bread, deli meat, sandwiches/burgers, pizza, soup, chicken)
- Eat fresh or on the minimally processed end of the spectrum
- Avoid sauces, gravies, salad dressings, condiments, and syrups
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