What are processed foods?
Processed foods are any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat.
Technically, processed foods can be highly nutritious and beneficial for the body, it just depends on how “thoroughly” it has gone through human intervention.
Some processed foods that can very much serve up as great sources of nutrition include milk, greek yogurt, canned tuna in brine, rolled oats etc.
However, there are many which are ultra-processed and contains ingredients may have detrimental effects to our health. Here is a list of why these foods are harmful to us and what they actually are.
1) Sugar Overload
Processed foods such as cakes, whipped cream, ice cream, bubble tea, soft drinks, certain cereals, granola bars contain excessive amounts of sugar. Added sugar that can come in the form of fructose, sucrose, glucose, corn syrup etc. Overconsumption of sugar is the number leading cause of obesity, diabetes and many chronic illnesses.
2) Sodium Overload
Processed foods such as bacon, ham, microwave ready foods, instant, chips noodles contain high amounts of sodium. Excess sodium intake causes high blood pressure as sodium in the blood stream attracts water, resulting in increased blood volume. High blood pressure can cause damages to the blood vessels, cardiovascular and kidney diseases.
3) Low Nutrients and Fiber
Similarly, instant noodles, chips, cakes, white rice and refined flour are stripped of beneficial nutrients such as vitamins and minerals which sometimes are artificially added in, certainly not as good as those naturally occurring ones in whole foods.
Lack of gut friendly fiber may result in more carbohydrates and fats absorbed into the body resulting in higher incidence of obesity. Increased appetite might occur as fiber is known to help control hunger.
4) Unhealthy Fats
Margarine, packaged snacks, ready to use dough, deep fried foods contain partially hydrogenated oils which contain the worst of fats, called trans fats. These fats are the culprits in raising bad cholesterol or LDL in the body. Bad cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular diseases, increased risks of stroke.
5) Cancer causing
WHO has classified process meat – ham, sausages, bacon etc and red meat to be group 1 or carcinogenic to humans. The same level of categorisation as smoking. This is due to the artificial additives, preservatives and colourings that are added into the mix and also the nature of red meat on its own which are said to cause colorectal cancer.
It is always advisable to consume whole foods and fruits. Those that typically single ingredient and with low or moderately low sugar levels. Choose poultry and fish over red meat as well.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)
By : Alvin Ho
B (Eng), MBA, Certified Allied Healthcare/Fitness Professional (EIMS), Master Fitness Trainer / Fitness Nutrition, Resistance & Endurance Training Specialist (NFPT)