Evidence Based Fact Checked

Top 10 Processed Foods to Avoid and Good Tasty Alternatives

You have been told to avoid processed food just to lose weight. But, the reality is somewhat very different.

Eating processed food for a long time can be a great risk to your health.

What does processed food mean?

Processed food are foods that have been changed from its natural state by adding chemicals, ingredients that are refined, artificial colors, flavors, and other synthetic components.

What is considered as processed foods?

Processed foods often come in a jar or box. They contain a high amount of sugar, sodium, fats (including trans fat) and very low in fiber.

Moreover, processed food also refer to canning, milling, freezing, and dehydration. This is usually done to increase the shelf life of a product.

Just like eating a bowl of the bean within one day is normal but storing it in a can for one or two years is abnormal.

However, during processing unhealthy fats like trans fat, sodium and sugar are added to act as a preservative and to increase taste buds.

Simply, processed foods are ready-to-eat meals and snack foods.

How to start eating clean?

Most of them don’t know what “eating clean” really means. Eating clean simply means to eat wholesome fruits and vegetables that are produced seasonally.

Always choose whole grains products over refined ones. Also, avoid sugar and other processed ingredients in your cooking.

If you have decided to eat clean then prepare and cook food in your home.

According to Harvard Medical School, not all processed foods are unhealthy. Some foods require some sort of processing to make it edible.

Like, pasteurization of milk is important to make it safe to drink. Also, pre-chopped vegetables and canned fruits in their own juice are safe to eat.

So, it is good to know what all the processed foods you should avoid and what are good alternatives to adopt.

List of processed food to avoid

Processed Meat like Bacon, Pepperoni, Sausage

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Meat can be part of a healthy diet until and unless it is unprocessed.

The processed meat like Bacon, Pepperoni, Sausage, Hot dog are all highly processed and modified to extend the shelf life and improve the taste buds.

According to IARC (World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer), all types of processed meat is unhealthy and carcinogenic to humans.

It means that it can cause cancer such as colon cancer and other forms of cancer.

Also, the studies suggested that processed meat gives a higher risk of heart diseases and diabetes.

Moreover, Harvard University has confirmed that the intake of processed meat regularly can potentially lead to chronic diseases and mortality.

But, there is no such evidence that the intake of processed meat in a smaller amount or occasionally cannot have a considerable health impact.

Is eating Bacon every day unhealthy?

Bacon contains a high amount of sodium and unhealthy saturated fats that can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

Additionally, store-bought bacon contains a high amount of preservatives that can be linked to health concerns such as cancer and headaches.

Is hot dog unhealthy?

The hot dog is a popular and highly consumable processed meat. This processed meat such as a hot dog or bacon contains additives known as synthetic nitrates.

The work of synthetic nitrates is to keep the processed meat fresh and store for a longer time. But nitrates are carcinogenic and can lead to various types of cancer. Also, several studies have labeled processed food as bad as cigarette smoking.

What are the best alternatives to processed meat?

You can replace processed meat with Avocado. It contains a healthy and good amount of saturated fat. Other than that it is highly nutritious and can help in reducing the risk of heart disease.

You can buy fresh Avocados here.

Salad Dressing

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Salad dressing is very similar to pasta sauce and ketchup that are pumped with sugar, trans fat, emulsifiers, and many other chemical ingredients.

Whenever you look for a store-bought salad dressing label, you will find the sodium content at least 200 milligrams and the sugar content of at least 2 grams.

This much amount of sodium and sugar in salad dressing is inflammatory and carcinogenic in nature. It will lead to many health-related issues and in the end, give rise to weight gain.

You will also find other harmful ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial flavors, dyes and preservatives, hydrogenated oils and soy lecithin. These ingredients are mainly linked to different types of cancer.

What is a good alternative to a salad dressing?

A good alternative to salad dressing is the home-made salad dressing. You can easily make salad dressing at home from scratch.

You require a few items like olive oil, home-made mustard sauce, honey, and lemon (if needed). Mix these ingredients and it is ready to mix with your salad.

You can buy virgin olive oil and organic honey here.

Granola and Energy Bars

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Granola bars or energy bars often seem to be healthy but despite their marketing claims, they are filled with sugars, calories, preservatives and artificial ingredients.

The excess sugar in granola bars can increase the risk of many unhealthy diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Although it is marketed as healthy snacks when you look upon nutrition, it does not provide any value to it. The label of granola bars lists down ingredient which is not only unknown but also difficult to pronounce.

What is a good alternative to Granola bars?

The best alternative of Granola bars is home-made granola bars. You can look for recipes that use less sugar or instead of sugar it is good to use Stevia.

Bread, Cookies, Pastries, and Cakes

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These bread, cookies, pastries, and cakes are made with refined white flour which is categorized as empty calories.

The empty calories present in bread spike your blood sugar significantly. Some bread brands you will find to last for more than 2 weeks. It is because of the presence of Potassium Bromate and Potassium Iodate.

This type of additives and preservatives are not only harmful but can also lead to many chronic diseases.

While making bread, it goes through grinding and processing which kills all the nutrients of grains and the only remaining part would be gluten. However, if you are sensitive to gluten then it doesn’t make any sense consuming bread.

Similarly, cookies, pastries, and cakes are filled with empty nutrients that will impact your blood sugar level easily.

Other than taste, these empty nutrients food doesn’t do any favors to you.

Also, these empty nutrient food most commonly contains refined sugar and trans fat that add empty calories. Long term exposure to these empty nutrients food contribute to many health-related problems and also increase the mortality rate.

Also watch out for other ingredients like hydrogenated oil, maltose, and dextrose.

What are good alternatives to bread cookies, pastries, and cakes?

It is better to put off this food from your life. But, still, if you can’t get rid of this food then the only solution is home-made bread, cookies, pastries, and cakes.

It is should be noted that home-made bread, cookies, pastries, and cakes should be free from any type of preservatives and additives.

While, if you can’t make in your own home then look for the local baker and confirm with them the list of ingredients they are going to add to bread. Further, as a standard rule, if the list is too long then try to avoid.

Breakfast Cereal

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Cereal is considered to be healthy, right? Well, it depends totally on how it was made.

Most of the cereal companies use a list of ingredients and go through a whole lot of processing.

The biggest culprits are hidden sugar that has been studying under Global Consumer Reports across 32 nations.

Moreover, the grain used in cereal is highly refined which in turn is stripped off all their nutrients. So, to maintain the recommended nutrients they are refortified.

However, the “extrusion” process used by several companies to make cereal tasty and long-lasting alters the basic amino acid structure.

This makes all types of cereal Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO food and this would be highly toxic to your health and can lead to several types of cancer.

In a nutshell, all type of breakfast cereals contains  very low amount of nutrients and fibers that aren’t worth to considered as foods.

What is a good alternative to breakfast cereals?

Looking for healthy cereal in the market would be the most difficult task. It is better to make your own cereal like granola or muesli mix at your home.

You can pick your own ingredients of your own choice and limit the amount of sugar intake. Lastly, serve this cereal mixes with milk or stirred with creamy yogurt.

Refined Vegetable oils and Margarine

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Consumption of vegetable oil has increased dramatically with the introduction of a large amount of processed or empty nutrient foods.

All type of snacks or ready-to-eat foods is a great source of refined vegetable oils. The refined vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil are high in Omega-6 fatty acids.

Several studies have confirmed that food which is high in Omega-6 fatty acids is linked with increased risk of breast cancer.

Also, the study has shown that the intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids has to lead to increased oxidative stress.

Similarly, processed cheese and margarine are usually made from refined vegetable oils. These are engineered food that is designed to look, feel and taste like butter.

Moreover, margarine solidification is achieved through hydrogenation which level ups the trans fat in it. Trans fats are toxic to your body and regular intake of trans fat will create havoc in your body.

While purchasing for products always look for “trans fats free” product or the serving should not contain more than 0.5 grams of trans fats.

What are good alternatives to refined vegetable oils, margarine?

The best alternative to refined vegetable oils is Olive oil, Coconut oil, and Avocado oil.

Also, a good alternative to margarine is organic butter and organic Ghee.

Canned Soup and Bottled Fruit Juices

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Bottled fruit juices are commonly mistaken as a healthy food because it comes from fruits.

But, fruit juices are extracted by removing the fiber from fruits and the bottled fruit juices are added with preservatives and additives.

When the fiber is removed from fruits then the fructose easily raises the blood sugar level.

Drinking fruit juice for a longer time will harm your body and can be dangerous for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

The antioxidant and vitamins in fruit juices don’t do much benefits to your body because of high sugar content.

Similarly, canned soup is another convenient food that is high in sodium.

Also, lots of preservatives or additives are added to the canned soup.

It is better to avoid both canned soup and bottled fruit juices.

What are good alternatives to canned soup and bottled fruit juices?

Instead of bottled fruit juices, you can still have fresh fruit juices of Pomegranate or acai berry but only in limited quantity.

Also, you can replace canned soup with home-made cooked soup. You can use chicken broth or vegetable stock for making soup. Also, most of the soup recipes don’t take more than 30 minutes.

Sauces like Pasta sauce and Tomato Ketchup

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Pasta sauce or jarred pasta sauce is filled with lots of sugar and high in sodium.

Also, the pasta sauces are full of preservatives, emulsifiers, and other undesirable ingredients.

These pasta sauces are completely devoid of nutrient and the intake of these pasta sauces can put your health on risk.

Likewise, the tomato ketchup, one of America’s favorite condiments, is diluted with sugar and salt which offer no nutrient value to your body.

You will find every single packet of ketchup contains at least 2 grams of sugar.

What are good alternatives to tomato ketchup and pasta sauce?

The best alternative to tomato ketchup is home-made tomato paste, mix it with vinegar and add some salt or brown sugar for taste.

You can also make home-made pasta sauce by adding fresh garlic powder and basil to it.

Carbonated Drinks like Colas, Frozen Desserts and Ice Cream

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There are many reasons to avoid carbonated drinks from your life. The carbonated drinks contain an unimaginable amount of sugar that will rot your teeth and dehydrate your body.

The excess amount of sugar in carbonated drinks is detrimental to your health on many levels.

Also, the carbonated drink has the opposite impact on your body and mind because it fails to register the intake of calories and we end up consuming more.

According to the study, the consumption of excess sugar can lead to fatty liver, risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other serious problems related to obesity.

Similarly, Ice cream and other frozen desserts are filled with lots of sugar and preservatives which will worsen your system and put your body at risk of diseases.

What are the best alternatives to carbonated drinks like Colas, Ice cream, and Frozen desserts?

The best alternative would be home-made fresh juice in limited quantity. And, even you can look for dessert recipes that use Stevia as a sweetener.

Refined Flour, White rice, and other Grains

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The refined flour, white rice, and other refined grains are also processed food that can add-up extra calories to your body.

Long term intake of refined flour and white rice will raise your blood sugar level and make you insulin resistant. Further, it leads to Type 1 Diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol.

What are good alternatives to refined flour and white rice?

The good alternative to refined flour is whole wheat or multi-grain flour. Also, you can replace white rice with red rice or brown rice.

You can also look for buckwheat or quinoa that are least processed.

The bottom line

These processed foods can harm your body and put your health at risk.

Most of this processed food is filled with chemicals, preservatives or additives that can keep these foods fresh, attractive and last longer.

Always look for labels and a list of ingredients before purchasing any processed food. If you find any of these words like refined, emulsifiers, sodium, additives, sugar and trans fat then try to avoid these processed foods.

Make sure to make fresh and simple ingredients the focus of your diet. Always choose wisely because health is in your hands.

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