Processed foods are not the devil that Gwyneth Paltrow wants us to think they are.
Some of them are pretty great and useful. Who wants to make their own bread, milk, sauces, and granola all the time?
The reality of our busy life is that processed foods help us get the job done when we don’t have time, energy, or access to whole foods. We shouldn't have to beat ourselves up for choosing the most workable option when we need to.
While fresh whole foods are always best, there are perfectly nutritious, more-processed versions of them, such as frozen fruits and vegetables (picked at peak ripeness and even more nutritious than fresh fruit that had to travel a long distance), low-sodium canned chickpeas, plain (plant) yogurt, nut butter, bean pasta, some granola (bars) or dried fruits.
There is a very wide range of the level of processing of course. Some foods are so highly modified that we can't even pronounce most of their ingedients. The key is to be mindful not to make those foods a staple in your diet and to understand how to pick decent options on the shelves.
Always check the back label. The front labe is trying to lure you in, often with misleading health claims. The hard facts, the ingredient list, matter. Chose foods with a short list of mainly real ingredients.
Good to know: Ingredients are listen in order of their quantity - highest to lowest. Look for products with real foods as first three ingredients.
Side note (for your sanity): don't feel the pressure to fix what isn't broken. If you eat a chocolate bar every day, and you feel amazing – keep doing it. There is worse things you could be doing....
That Being Said – Some Ingredients to be Mindful of:
Sodium nitrite is a preservative mainly found in processed meats and linked to various health issues.
Added sugars: More than 22g/100g is considered high-sugar. High-fructose corn syrup is extremely high in sugar and linked to inflammation and diabetes.
The artificial sweetener aspartame causes headaches for some people.
Carrageenan, a thickener, emulsifier and preservative can negatively impact your digestive health.
Trans fats = chemically altered oils linked to inflammation and higher risk for clocked arteries.
High sodium: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g.
Refined grains with no micronutrients and lots of gluten can trigger the immune system IF you are sensitive to it.
Foods contaminated with glyphosate—i.e., conventional wine and genetically modified foods, like corn chips—can contribute to a gut bacteria imbalance.
If you struggle with bloating: Casein—the most common protein in dairy (and a lot of protein powders and bars)— might make you fart, just saying...
Guar gum can make you gassy as well.