Health Risks Of Processed Foods

What are the health risks and dangers of processed foods?

Loss of nutritive value – Many processed foods loose their nutritive value during the physical and chemical procedures of food processing. Canned fruits loose vitamin C, dried fruits and vegetables lose antioxidants.

High sugars – Refined sugars are added to various foods as preservative like in canned fruits. Sugars increase the palatability as added in sauces, jams and candies. This can lead to various health problems like obesity and diabetes.

Food colours – Colours are added to processed foods to increase commercial value like in jam, ketchup etc. Many chemical colours are proved to be causing cancer.

Stabilisers – Stabilisers used in foods act as a thickening agent to gel the foods into the required consistency. It helps in preventing oil, water emulsions from separating in products such as salad dressing, yogurt, ice-creams, mayonnaise etc. Usually these additives do not cause health problems as they are derived from natural foods. They may contain high sugars.

Sequestrates – A sequestrant is a food additive which improves the quality and stability of foods. A sequestrant forms chelate complexes with polyvalent metal ions, especially copper, iron and nickel, which can prevent the oxidation of the fats in the food. Sequestrants are a type of preservative. Common sequestrants include sodium gluconate, sodium tripolyhosphate and calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetate. High intake of these processed foods may disturb several metabolic processes and cause gastric disturbances.

Preservatives –Preservatives are used to increase the shelf life of food and to maintain the quality for longer time. Some of these preservatives are chemicals with side effects. The action of preservatives can be very mild to life-threatening. Sulphites are common preservatives used in various processed foods like fruits, may have side effects like headaches, allergies etc. Nitrates and Nitrites are suspected of causing stomach cancer.

High trans-fat– Trans fat is a partially hydrogenated oil and is less likely to spoil. So processed foods made with it have a longer shelf life and is found in many snacks and bakes. A diet laden with trans-fat increases risk of heart disease.

Added salt – Consuming too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Most processed food like soup, dressings, snacks, pickles contain added salt.

Contaminations – Processed foods are more likely to get contaminated by microbes during the food processing or during storage.

Allergens – Benzoates are used in foods as antimicrobial preservatives, and have been suspected to cause allergies, asthma and skin rashes.

Fermented products– Many pickled or soured foods are fermented as part of the pickling or souring process. It may give rise to health risks like food poisoning or botulism. Cases of cancer is associated with regular use of some fermented products. Alcohols and spirits are also fermented processed foods with high risk of liver and heart diseases.

What are the benefits of food processing?

Some of the benefits of processed foods are

  • Transportation easier.
  • Less time consuming for preparation
  • Calories counted
  • Processing may remove some food borne infections
  • Improve the taste and make edible.
  • Additional nutrients can be obtained
  • Can be used in natural calamities and emergency conditions.

What kind of food is not processed?

Whole and fresh foods from plant or animals are unprocessed. They include foods like whole grains, tubers, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and meat, eggs etc.

Is there any healthy processed food?

Some of the healthy processed food include:

  • Dried foods like fruits, nuts and grains
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Frozen vegetables or meat
  • Yogurt and tomato puree
  • Dark chocolates
processed foods
processed food

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