Which processed foods are better than natural? - Deepstash
Is natural always better than processed?

An adjective that can whet our appetites is "natural", while we tend to associate "processed" food with long lists of ingredients we can't pronounce.

Actually, naturalness doesn't automatically mean a food is healthy, says Christina Sadler, manager at the European Food Information Council and researcher at the University of Surrey.

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Natural isn‘t always healthy

In fact, natural foods can contain toxins, and minimal processing can in fact make them safer.

Kidney beans, for instance, contain lectins, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. They're removed by soaking the beans in water overnight and then cooking them in boiling water.

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Milk is an excellent example

Processing also makes cow's milk safe to consume. Milk has been pasteurised since the late 1800s, in order to kill harmful bacteria. Before this time, it was distributed locally, because there wasn't good refrigeration in houses.

Just before World War Two, around a quarter of all food and waterborne diseases came from milk. Now it's less than 1%.

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Minimal processing is essential

Processing can also help to retain nutrients in food we eat. For example, freezing, which is classified as minimal processing, allows fruit and vegetables to retain nutrients that can otherwise degrade while sitting in a fridge.

"There's a misconception that frozen produce isn't as good as its fresh counterparts, but that's truly inaccurate," says Ronald Pegg, food science and technology professor at the University of Georgia.

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The key takeaways?

Some ultra-processed foods can be linked to bad health outcomes, but all processed food shouldn't be tarred with the same brush.

Frozen vegetables, pasteurised milk or boiled potatoes, for example, can be better for us than their unprocessed counterparts.

As long as we can recognise a processed food as being close to its natural form, having them in our diet may even be good for us.

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