Eat or Not to Eat: Refined Food vs Processed Food
Of recent times, it seems we are bombarded with claims that ‘refined’ and ‘processed’ foods are bad for our health, but should we be taking this on board? Did you know that ‘refined’ and ‘processed’ is not the same thing? Neither did I.. Now I will share with you what I now know. Remember knowledge is power peeps!
What does ‘refined’ mean?
In terms of food, refined means a food that does not contain all of it’s original nutrients. In that way it is kind of a poorer quality product because a lot of the nutritional value of the food has been removed (so what’s the point of eating it.. seems a waste of time and money).
Refined foods are the opposite of whole foods; since you cannot pick a refined food out of the garden to eat. Examples of refined foods include: oil, sugar, white flour, white rice, and products made out of these ingredients (such as: white and wheat breads, cakes, pastries, cookies, biscuits, crisps etc).
So as a general rule, refined foods should be avoided as much as possible, to maximise our nutrient intake from unrefined foods (i.e whole foods).
What does ‘processed’ mean?
Processed foods are simply foods that have gone through some sort of a process. Unless you are eating raw or whole foods, it is likely that your food has been processed in some way; since ‘processed’ includes the common practice of peeling, chopping, blending, grinding and cooking foods.
The ‘Western diet’ is often associated with consuming lots of processed foods and poor health. However, eating processed foods can be a good thing; it just depends on which processed foods you are eating. Generally speaking, processed refined foods are bad for you and processed whole foods are good for you.
Processed refined foods include: white bread, white flour, chips, biscuits and cakes. It is the refined ingredients used to make these foods which makes them bad for you.
Processed whole foods include: 100% wholegrain bread, pastas, ground corn tortillas and other 100% wholegrain foods. Health-enhancing processed foods include: rolled oats, dried fruit and frozen vegetables. These foods have all gone through some form of a process, but still contain 100% of its original nutrients (unlike refined foods).
To Eat or not to Eat
After reading this, hopefully you have an understanding of the difference between ‘refined’ and ‘processed’ foods. You may be contemplating diet changes you should now make and how to go about it.
Some refined foods are now fortified with some minerals lost after processing, which would seem promising to someone not wanting to alter their diet too much. However unfortunately it is not possible to replace all of the nutrients lost during processing; so whilst this may seem like a good option, it just isn’t as good as eating unrefined wholegrain foods.
To make it easier for you, just remember to avoid foods that are refined since they will add little (if any) nutritional benefit to your diet. Try your best to incorporate more whole foods into your diet, that can include processed whole foods, since they will improve your overall health.
I advise gradually swapping your current refined food ‘go-tos’ for more wholesome and nutritious whole foods. As a general rule, everything in ‘moderation’ is a good motto to stick by when thinking about your diet. Too much of anything is not good for you. You can’t go far wrong with varying your diet and keeping it as balanced as possible, with the occasional treat every now and again.
Here are a few examples of simple and easy swaps you can make for the benefit of your health:
Refined Foods —> Raw / Processed Whole Foods
White Tortillas —> Wholegrain Tortillas / Ground Corn Tortillas / Wholegrain Seeded Tortillas
White Bread —> Wholegrain Bread / Wholegrain Seeded Bread
White Rice —> Brown Rice
White Pasta —> Wholegrain Pasta
White Spaghetti —> Wholegrain Spaghetti
Cakes / Cookies —> Cakes / Cookies made from Wholegrain Flour
Sugar —> Agave Syrup / Brown Sugar / Honey (not Vegan-friendly) / Maple Syrup / Barley Malt Syrup / Brown Rice Syrup
Crisps —> Raw Potato (just for jokes 🙂 , don’t actually do this)
What are your thoughts on refined vs processed food. Have you learnt something new from this post? Let me know in the comments.