Processed foods: the pros and cons: a balanced view


In food processing, harvested crops or slaughtered animals are used as raw ingredients to make

and package food products that are attractive, marketable and have a long shelf life.

Attractive means that the product tastes and looks good. To be marketable, it must match the types of food that consumers demand. Food products that have a long shelf life reduce waste costs for producers, distributors and retailers.

Food processing development.

Food processing dates back to our prehistory, when fire was discovered and cooking was invented. The various ways in which food can be cooked are all forms of food processing.

Food preservation also began in prehistory, and the first foods of & # 39; long shelf life & # 39; they were produced by drying the food in the sun and preserving the food with salt. Salt preservation was common among soldiers, sailors and other travelers until canning was invented in the early 19th century.


The ancient Bulgarians invented the first instant food (bulgur) almost 8,000 years ago, when they found a way to boil and dry whole wheat so that the grain only had to be reheated before it could be eaten.

One of the first ready-to-eat meals was devised by the ancient Celts when they invented haggis and what is now known as the Cornish cake.

The nomads of Arabia invented another processed food, cheese, when they noticed how the milk curdled while jogging all day on their camels and ponies.

Prehistoric methods of cooking and preserving food remained largely unchanged until the industrial revolution.

The development of modern food processing technology began in the early nineteenth century in response to the needs of the military. In 1809 a vacuum bottling technique was invented so that Napoleon could feed his troops. Canning was invented in 1810 and, after can manufacturers stopped using lead (which is highly poisonous) for the inner lining of cans, canned products became common throughout the world. Pasteurization, discovered in 1862, advanced significantly in the microbiological safety of milk and similar products.

Cooling decreases the reproduction rate of bacteria and, therefore, the rate of food spoilage. Refrigeration as a storage technique has been in use for hundreds of years. The ice houses, filled with fresh snow during the winter, were used to preserve food by cooling from the mid-eighteenth century onwards and worked quite well most of the year in northern climates.

Commercial refrigeration, which used toxic refrigerants that made technology unsafe in the home, was in use for almost four decades before the first domestic refrigerators were introduced in 1915.

Home refrigerators gained wide acceptance in the 1930s when non-toxic and non-flammable refrigerants such as freon were invented.

The expansion of the food processing industry in the second half of the twentieth century was due to three needs: (a) food to feed troops efficiently during World War II, (b) food that could be consumed under conditions of Zero gravity during incursions into outer space, and (c) the search for the convenience demanded by the busy consumer society.

To respond to these needs, food scientists invented lyophilization, spray drying and juice concentrates among a large number of other processing technologies. They also introduced artificial sweeteners, coloring agents and chemical preservatives. In the last years of the last century they came up with dried instant soups, reconstituted juices and fruits, and meals & # 39; self-cooking & # 39; (MRE) so dear to military bronze but not to grunts.

The & # 39; search for convenience & # 39; It has led to the expansion of frozen foods from simple bags of frozen peas to juice concentrates and complex television dinners. Those who process food now use the perceived value of time as the basis of their market appeal.

Benefits of processed foods.

Initially, processed foods helped alleviate food shortages and improve overall nutrition by making new foods available worldwide. Modern food processing offers many additional benefits:

  • The deactivation of pathogenic microorganisms found in fresh vegetables and raw meats (such as salmonella), reduces foodborne illness and makes food safer.
  • Because processed foods are less susceptible to deterioration than fresh foods, modern processing, storage and transportation can deliver a wide variety of foods from around the world, giving us options in our supermarkets that would have been unimaginable for our ancestors.
  • Processing can often improve the taste of food, although it can also have the opposite effect.
  • The nutritional value of food can be increased by adding additional nutrients and vitamins during processing.
  • The nutritional value can also be made more consistent and reliable.
  • Modern processing technologies can also improve the quality of life of people who have allergies by eliminating the proteins that cause allergic reactions.
  • Mass production of food means that processed foods are much cheaper to produce than the cost of preparing meals from raw ingredients at home.

Processed foods are also extremely convenient. Homes are free from the time-consuming tasks of preparing and cooking foods that are in their natural state … the food processing industry makes everything from peeled potatoes ready to boil to prepared foods that only have to Warm up in a micro wave. Bake for a few minutes.


Processed foods are undoubtedly a great blessing. But not everything is sweetness and light.

Generally speaking, fresh unprocessed foods will contain a higher proportion of natural fiber, vitamins and minerals than the same food after processing by the food industry. Vitamin C, for example, is destroyed by heat and, therefore, fresh fruit will contain more vitamin C than canned fruit.

In fact, nutrients are often deliberately removed from food during processing to improve taste, appearance or shelf life. Examples include bread, pasta and prepared foods.

The result is empty calories. Processed foods have a higher proportion of calories to other essential nutrients than fresh unprocessed foods. They are often energy dense and nutritionally poor.

Processing may present hazards that are not found in unprocessed foods, due to additives, preservatives, chemically hardened vegetable oils or trans fats, and excess sugar and salt. In fact, the additives in processed foods … flavorings, sweeteners, stabilizers, agents to improve texture and preservatives, among others … may have little or no nutritional value, or may be unhealthy.

Preservatives used to prolong shelf life, such as nitrites or sulphites, can cause health problems. In fact, it has been shown that the addition of many chemicals for flavor and preservation causes human and animal cells to grow rapidly, without dying, which increases the risk of a variety of cancers.

Cheap ingredients that mimic the properties of natural ingredients, such as trans fats produced by chemical hardening vegetable oils that replace more expensive natural saturated fats or cold pressed oils, have been shown to cause serious health problems In numerous studies. . But they are still widely used due to their low cost and consumer ignorance.

Sugars, fats and salts are usually added to processed foods to improve flavor and as preservatives. As diabetics, we are all aware of the effects of excess sugar, fat and our already damaged systems. Eating large amounts of processed foods means consuming too many sugars, fats and salts, which, even if you are in full health, can cause a variety of problems, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, ulcers, stomach cancer, obesity and Of course diabetes.

Another problem with processed foods is that, when low quality ingredients are used, this can be disguised during manufacturing.

In the processing industry, a food product will go through several intermediate steps in independent factories before it is finished at the factory that terminates it.

This is similar to the use of subcontractors in automobile manufacturing, where many independent factories manufacture parts, such as electrical systems, bumpers and other subsystems, in accordance with the manufacturer’s final specifications. These parts are then sold to the car plant where the car is finally assembled from the purchased parts.

Because the ingredients in processed foods are often made in large quantities during the early stages of the manufacturing process, any hygiene problems in the facilities that produce a basic ingredient that other factories widely use in the later stages of the Production can have serious effects on the quality and safety of many final food products.

Despite the dangers, today everyone eats processed foods almost exclusively. As a result, people eat faster and no longer seem to realize how food is grown and how it is a gift from nature.

I also think that food has become a more necessary interruption in our busy lives and a less social occasion to enjoy.

Eat processed foods

You cannot avoid eating some processed foods … the convenience is irresistible.

When you eat processed foods, you reduce the likelihood of being poisoned or of getting a foodborne illness. The nutritional value of what you eat may be more constant and you probably eat more nutrients and vitamins than you would get from eating only unprocessed foods.

On the other hand, when eating processed foods, you are exposed to a possible loss of heat-sensitive vitamins and nutrients that are eliminated to improve shelf life, taste and appearance. It is also exposing itself to the possible adverse health effects of various additives and preservatives, some of which can be very serious.

The calorie-dense nature of processed foods, due to the large amounts of sugars and fats they contain, makes them extremely problematic for diabetics and those with high levels of cholesterol and blood pressure.

The only solution is to choose the processed foods you buy with extreme care, reading the labels on the packaging, and focus your diet on fresh or frozen products as much as possible.


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