Disclaimer: we are not medical professionals, consult with your doctor before making any kind of change in your diet!
Let’s start the right way and talk about what food processing is.
Food processing is the transformation of agricultural products into food, or of one form of food into other forms. Food processing includes many forms of processing foods, from grinding grain to make raw flour to home cooking to complex industrial methods used to make convenience foods. Some food processing methods play important roles in reducing food waste and improving food preservation, thus reducing the total environmental impact of agriculture and improving food security.
Primary food processing is necessary to make most foods edible, and secondary food processing turns the ingredients into familiar foods, such as bread. Tertiary food processing has been criticized for promoting overnutrition and obesity, containing too much sugar and salt, too little fibre, and otherwise being unhealthful in respect to the dietary needs of humans and farm animals. Let’s take a closer look at each type of food processing!
Primary food processing
Primary food processing turns agricultural products, such as raw wheat kernels or livestock, into something that can eventually be eaten. This category includes ingredients that are produced by ancient processes such as drying, threshing, winnowing and milling grain, shelling nuts, and butchering animals for meat. It also includes deboning and cutting meat, freezing and smoking fish and meat, extracting and filtering oils, canning food, preserving food through food irradiation, and candling eggs, as well as homogenizing and pasteurizing milk. Basically, this is how we transform raw food materials into the things we can actually eat.
Secondary food processing
Secondary food processing is the everyday process of creating food from ingredients that are ready to use. Baking bread, regardless of whether it is made at home, in a small bakery, or in a large factory, is an example of secondary food processing. Fermenting fish and making wine, beer, and other alcoholic products are traditional forms of secondary food processing. Sausages are a common form of secondary processed meat, formed by grinding meat that has already undergone primary processing. In other words, most of the secondary food processing methods known to humankind are commonly described as cooking methods.
Tertiary food processing
Tertiary food processing is the commercial production of what is commonly called processed food. These are ready-to-eat or heat-and-serve foods, such as TV dinners and re-heated airline meals. This category also includes all the types of bagged snacks, like chips, premade popcorn, pretzels, candies, lollies, cream-filled desserts, and so on. Basically, things that need to be produced in factories and that come in shiny, colourful bags.
Why it’s important to know all of these things
While primary food processing is essential and secondary food processing is mostly harmless, it’s the tertiary food processing that has been raising questions more or less lately. This type of processing adds non-essential products to food (extra salt, extra sugar, extra fats, preservatives) in order to make products last longer and be as shelf-stable as possible. In other words, certain substances are added to food not for the benefit of it or you, but to ensure that mass production is profitable.
And many of these substances, especially when not consumed in moderation, can have long-lasting effects on your health: from unhealthy weight gain to heart diseases, nothing is off the table.
However, if you choose less processed foods, foods that are closer to their natural state and thus have as few harmful substances as possible, two very important things will happen:
- You will have the benefit of better digestion, more friendly with your body – when the organism only has to tackle natural substances, the things it’s genetically used to, it has a better reaction to them and, in consequence, you will feel better after eating.
- You are not introducing any harmful additives to your body, substances that accompany heavy processing – as such, simply by eating more natural food, you are actively contributing to your health and preventing a myriad of possible issues that are associated with processed food consumption.
With all that being said, the advantages of less processed foods are obvious! Not only are you actively contributing to your health, but you are also keeping away some unpleasant situations. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to start cooking every single little thing in the house, or only eat raw foods, or swear off sweets for the rest of your life. That’s not only unsustainable, but there is real pleasure in enjoying certain foods every now and then.
What you should, however, take away from this, is to be more careful about what you eat and how those foods are prepared! A good example of this are our desserts: made of only raw and natural ingredients, with minimal processing that involves no heat (all of our desserts are raw!) and with no added sugar, a good slice of our Blueberry Dream Cake is definitely the sweet fix you need!