Characteristics of Processed Foods

The drastic deterioration of the national diet over the past fifty years comes from teh massive expansion in processed food production.

Foods undergo changes and take on some undesirable characteristics when they are processed. Food processing isolates the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, which are then consumed in pure form or are used to enrich other foods. In nature these food components do not exist in pure form. They are all intertwined. By chemical means, the processing pulls out the components and turns them into artifacts (something artificial). Processed foods create yet another problem when they get inside our digestive tracks. Some of these foods become what may be called “non-foods”. This is to say that they are completely robbed of key nutrients because they are processed. In order to be digested, they are required to absorb nutrients (carbohydrates, fat, proteins, vitamins, minerals) from other foods.

That is why substances containing “empty or naked calories,” as Dr. Hoffer described them, are so injurious to the quality of any diet to which they are added. Such depleted substances as doughnuts, fried potatoes, white flour baked goods, sauces, gravies, canned soups and desserts, candies, commercial ice cream, and other overly processed items are best looked upon as junk to be avoided. Vitamins are lost during the processing. The longer the interval between field and kitchen, the more manipulations to which the fruits and vegetables have been exposed, the greater the nutrient loss. Vitamins are lost by being dissolved in water. The heat-labile vitamins such as vitamin C are often destroyed, and light may destroy others, such as vitamin B-12. Vitamins are slowly oxidized when food is stored for a long time, even if frozen. Finally, vitamins are extracted out of foods and thrown away or fed to livestock. Thus wheat germ, rich in vitamin E and other vitamins, is milled out of wheat and used for feed. This is good for our livestock and not so good for us.

Minerals are lost in the processing of food by leaching. Most of the essential minerals are present near the outer covering of the cereal grains, but those portions are not used for human consumption. In processing, we work hard to get rid of the valuable minerals-one of the main reasons we must supplement with mineral tablets.

Another alarming characteristic of processed foods is that they contain additives: (1) preservatives to prolong their shelf-life, (2) colors to increase their visual enticement, and (3) flavorings.

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