Food for thought: Processed foods

I just came back from The Paleo Way, an event featuring Pete Evans and Nora Gedgaudas. I’ll be writing more about it in the near future but for the moment let me say it was really good to see 1000 people attend the event. IMO it doesn’t necessarily mean that paleo is going mainstream any time soon, but rather that more people are taking action to improve their health. Good stuff.

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about today is processed foods. Are they evil? Are they “okay in moderation”? Well, it depends on what exactly you mean by “processed”. Most people will agree Doritos and Mars bars are processed foods but somehow think granola bars, breakfast cereal and Tip Top bread are not. Others, in the other end of the spectrum, will say that heating is processing, and thus a cooked steak is a processed food, as is a peeled carrot. I agree that everything you do to food is a level of processing but where to draw the line? Do we even have to draw a line?

I’ve been posting product reviews because I believe some processed foods are okay in certain circumstances, for example, when you don’t have time to cook or when carrying a container with a home-made stew is not practical. Abel James interviewed Dr Joel Fuhrman a few months ago (video here), who said paleo is wrong because it promotes the use of “processed oils” like coconut and olive oil. Then he went on to say that his diet promotes whole grains, etc. So his whole grains require less processing that extracting oil from a fatty fruit. Really?

I personally cook the majority of my meals with fresh produce and good quality meats, and when I eat out I prefer ordering dishes that have been cooked from scratch (as opposed to mass-produced), preferably from fresh ingredients. I am also comfortable with consuming minimally processed foods once in a while (shredded coconut, passata made out of 100% crushed tomatoes, tuna chunks in olive oil, olives in brine, seasoned and dried beef – i.e. jerky, etc.). In general, if the processing has taken a few steps and the ingredient list does not include other processed foods (refined sugar, seed oils, etc.) nor additives (preservatives, colourings, flavourings, etc.), I’m cool with calling that thing “food”.

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