Truth never damages a cause that is just. ~Mohandas K. Gandhi
So what is processed food anyway? Processed food is any food that has been altered from its natural state. As soon as it is altered (processed) in any way (no longer fresh and raw), it starts to lose nutrients. The more processed, the less nutrients it has. This doesn't mean that you should eat only raw food (that takes a lot of effort and dedication), but it does mean you should focus on eating raw or simply cooked whole foods.
The chart below describes the spectrum of foods. It goes from the least processed from the top box most processed (and worst) in the red box. You want most of your food to be from the green boxes.
The best food is still in its natural, recognizable form. Raw or steamed spinach is good (raw is better since cooking destroys some nutrients). Creamed spinach - not so good. Though cooking does destroy nutrients, it doesn't mean all cooking is bad. Certain things, like tomatoes, actually increase in lycopene (important nutrient for your eyes) when cooked. So don't obsess over cooking.
Wheat does not grow naturally in bread or pasta form. That is always processed, even if it is whole wheat! My cousin questioned whether homemade bread was processed. The answer is yes. Flour is milled, ground up wheat.
What about frozen or canned vegetables? Not bad - just make sure it doesn't have sweeteners, additives or chemicals, it is a fine way to get your vegetables. Back in the day, it was the only way to get any fruit and vegetables during the winter.
Of course, you can't avoid all processed foods. Just try to consistently eat the majority of your food from the green bars and try to avoid the red. Does it seem overwhelming? It's not! You can do it. Start with 50%, then when you are comfortable there, bring it up to 60%. Keep going - you might hit 90-95%.
What to do - Eat Less Processed Food
- Understand what processed food is. Read the chart above.
- Eat more whole foods. Stick to the green and yellow boxes.
- Always read your food labels so you know how processed that food is.
- Cook more of your own food. It's healthier, easy, and cheaper.
For more articles on real unprocessed food, go to Food Renegade's Fightback Friday.
What I ate: plain kefir, Barbara's Bakery Shredded Oats + skim milk, 2 squares dark chocolate, walnuts, spinach + mesclun salad + roasted beets + green beans + baked tofu + felafel + Asian noodles + red rice + barley + cucumbers, 1 potato chip, 12 oz. cafe au lait, 12 oz. coffee, 1 madeleine, 3 dried apricots, 1 medium apple, carrots + hummus, whole wheat spaghetti + spinach + Rao's Siciliana sauce + parmesan cheese, 1/4 roasted sweet potato, hot chocolate, white tea, 1 T. Udo's Oil, 1 multivitamin, 60 oz. water
Exercise: 15 min stationary bike, weights