If you want to take a holistic approach to your diet and overall health, a nutritionist will most likely tell you to cut out processed foods and fill up on fresh, whole ingredients. But to demonize any and all processed foods really "simplifies a more complex story," writes Cara Rosenbloom, registered dietitian and author of Nourish, for The Washington Post.
To put it simply, not all processed foods are created equally. In fact, Rosenbloom separates foods into four different categories based on processes: unprocessed and minimally processed foods, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods, and ultra-processed foods (hello, hot dogs, Pop-Tarts, instant soups, and breakfast cereals).
While foods in the last category have been linked to obesity, high blood sugar levels, and hypertension, processed foods in category three are hardly the sugar bombs they're cracked up to be. She defines them as "foods that undergo some processing and contain just two or three ingredients." The key here is that this "processing" does not undermine the nutritional value of the food.
Here are five processed foods that get a green light from Rosenbloom:
- Canned fish
- Salted nuts
- Fermented breads
- Frozen vegetables
- Probiotic yogurt
"Not all processes are bad—some forms of preserving and preparing food are very smart ideas," she explains. "Many of these items are nutritious and make it more convenient to cook at home." Sprouted foods, fermented foods containing probiotics, and some frozen foods are great examples—they're technically "processed," but they don't sacrifice nutrition for convenience.
What's your nutritional approach to processed foods? Share your thoughts below!