What Does the Definition of Processed Food Mean?

What Does the Definition of Processed Food Mean?
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The Basics

packaged foods

Learning the definition of processed food is the first step in creating a healthier eating pattern. Simply put, processed foods are those that have been altered from their natural state in some way. This means that most foods you find on the shelves at the grocery store are considered processed foods. While some things like brown rice and dry beans can be healthful additions to a diet, most processed foods are dangerous.

Dangers of Processed Foods

Processed foods are linked to many health issues such as depression, Alzheimer’s, chronic illness, inflammation and even some cancers due to the additives and preservatives found in them. These additives are added to foods by manufacturers so that they will last for months and even years on the shelves. Many of the additives added change the flavor, look, and texture of the foods to make them more palatable. Some of the most dangerous additives and preservatives found in processed foods include but are not limited to:

Benzoic Acid or Sodium Benzoate

These preservatives are usually found in milk and meat products in addition to cereals, foods low in sugar, and some drinks. Both these additives are used to stabilize the deterioration of foods and inhibit digestive enzymes in the body from functioning properly. Some side effects of ingesting these are headaches, an upset stomach, and even hyperactivity in young adults and children.


These are petroleum derived chemicals that are used to preserve foods that contain oil. These chemicals work to prevent the oils from going rancid, which would be a good idea if they weren’t so toxic to the body. The World Health Organization considers BHA to be a human carcinogen.

Potassium Bromate

This additive works to bulk up foods like flour, rolls and even breads. Potassium Bromate has been shown to cause cancer in animals and experts worry that even a small amount introduced to the human diet can cause serious disease and problems. In fact, California requires a label that warns of cancer risk if this additive is present in foods.

Are Any Processed Foods Safe?

The truth is that most processed foods are not safe when consumed in large amounts, if even at all. From bread and crackers to cereals and meats, it is important to know what is in the foods you purchase. The only way to do this is to read the ingredient labels. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any foods that contain ingredients that you don’t recognize or cannot pronounce. Remember that many processed foods have artificial colors, flavors, and chemicals that should be carefully researched before choosing to consume them.


Johnson, Lorie: “How to avoid processed foods in a healthy diet” https://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2010/June/How-to-Avoid-Processed-Foods-in-a-Healthy-Diet-/

Kotz, Deborah: “Ween Yourself Off of Processed Foods in 7 Steps” https://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diabetes/articles/2010/06/04/wean-yourself-off-processed-foods-in-7-steps

Sherpa, Coupon: “Top 15 chemicals in your foods” https://www.physorg.com/news183110037.html

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