How many times in a day do you open a highly processed food packet? A pack of cereal, a Juice carton, A pack of curd, a pack of biscuits, cakes, cupcakes, chips, wafers, french fries, and so on. The matter of fact is we are so surrounded by packaged food that we seldom realize the amount of sodium and salt that is being ingested. Some days before in one of the YouTube videos of the Satvic Movement, it was elaborated that the average sugar consumed by a kid of 7-10 years is 21 spoons which are shocking and surprising. 

What is Highly Processed Food?

Let us first understand why is food processed. The simple answer is to preserve its form and texture also to increase the shelf life. These foods not only include salt, sweeteners, and fat but also add in artificial flavors and colors. A research paper from Harvard suggests that this type of food is designed to increase cravings so that people eat them in more quantities improving the profit margins of the food and beverages industry. 

How to identify highly processed food?

  • Ready to eat
  • Mostly low on fiber or any nutrient if you check the nutrient chart 
  • High level of sodium
  • Presence of coloring agents and other additives 
  • High sugar content ( Which might have some other name like Fructose, sucrose, Corn syrup, and so on)
  • Requires min or no preparation to eat. 

Examples: 

Sugary drinks, chips, crackers, breakfast cereals, luncheon meals, frozen dinner, and lunches.

Food additives in highly processed food:

The additives play an important role in highly processed food. While checking the labels on these processed food cartons, we might ignore some less familiar names of these additives. Here is a sneak peek into the different names and their differentiation.

Preservatives: Helps to increase the shelf life of the food 

  • Ascorbic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Tocopherols, Sodium Benzoate 

Emulsifiers: Keeps the consistency of the product intact 

  • Soy Lecithin and monoglycerides 

Thickeners: To keep the texture intact 

  • Xanthum gum, guar gum, pectin, carrageenan 

Colors: Making the food look attractive despite longer shelf life

  • Artificial FD & C Yellow No.6 

The above info is as per a Harvard Report 

Different names of sugar labeled as 

  • corn syrup,
  • high-fructose corn syrup,
  • honey,
  • agave nectar,
  • cane sugar,
  • evaporated cane juice,
  • coconut sugar,
  • dextrose,
  • malt syrup,
  • molasses, or turbinado sugar.

For sodium, the labels are used such as 

  • monosodium glutamate (MSG) or disodium phosphate.

Effects of consuming highly processed food:

As stated above, highly processed food is a reason for more cravings. The additives in them make you eat that extra chips packet or more cereal than required. 

High intake of sugar and salt increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes as we have read in numerous other reports. 

In my personal experience, there are many people who have stopped consuming processed food and have been immensely benefitted. The results are apparent from the weight loss, increased vigor, drop in sugar levels, and so on. 

If you do not want to indulge in the details of additives, simply make sure that you do not consume anything which comes in a package. It is better to eat wholesome, homecooked food than ready to eat meals. 

The choice is always ours.

Reference:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5691719/

https://khni.kerry.com/trends-and-insights/ten-key-health-and-nutrition-trends-of-this-year/#good_carbs_bad_carbs

https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/en/