The subject of processed foods is widely misunderstood. Let's see if we can straighten out the mishmash of opinion, falsehood, and fact.
If anyone was ever an icon of healthy living, Mr. Jack LaLanne was. He was famous for saying, "If it's made by man, I don't eat it."
That's a good rule of thumb. It's one most people don't follow at all--look in the typical grocery shopping cart if you need evidence of that. It's also one that some people follow to an extreme and to their detriment.
Most processed foods are deleterious for your health and pose serious consequences for those who consume them regularly. Some processed foods, however, are quite good for you. It depends on the processing.
If we go by pure definitions, the act of processing foods is the act of changing them prior to consumption. So if you cook meat, take eggs out of the shell, let tomatoes ripen, peel an orange, or remove the pit from a peach--you are processing that food. Obviously, processing isn't totally bad and is often desirable. Nobody in their right mind would insist on eating a "whole egg," shell and all. Doing so, in fact, would probably land you in the hospital.
We also process foods as a way of preserving them. For example, you probably know someone who cans or freezes summer produce from their own garden. You can also buy evaporated milk, protein powders, and other foods that are condensed or in some way partially processed. None of this substantially alters the food, though fresh is better. The food isn't transformed into something that causes cancer or other problems.
At the other extreme are "foods" that have such problems as:
Rather than try to memorize a compiled a list of problems, it's enough to understand that limited processing is typically not harmful while the more you climb the processing scale, the more likely you will end up with something that will harm you.
Eating "whole" foods should be your goal. But don't be afraid to take your eggs out of their shell, grind those coffee beans, or do other "processing" that allows you to eat the food in the first place.
There's an easy way to figure out where to draw the line. Eat foods at the lowest level of processing for which they are available or maybe the next level up. For example, you might cook your oats (they are better raw), but don't use instant oats and don't overcook your oats if you do cook them. Peel an orange but don't juice it.
When you're shopping, use these general rules of thumb:
The articles on this site are authoritative, because:
Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.
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