What do we mean by "processed"-Is it really that bad?

Brian1

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What do we mean by "processed"; is it really that bad? When we wash food or peel it or cook it or mix it with other things we are processing it. Is it really useful to use the term "processed" as a one-size-fits-all reason to demonize any particular food? How much damage does "processing" actually do?
 

shyvas

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I think that it's when food contains added ingredients such as salt, sugar and trans fat that it's not really healthy. Moreover, if the fibre is removed e.g. white bread, white rice etc it is also considered less healthy food for the body. There is a high concentration of vitamins and nutrients in the skin or outer grain.

I don't consider washing and peeling fruit and vegetables as processed. In some cases, when the latter are not organic, it's preferable to peel them.
 

Brian1

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Ok, but let's say you have a plate full of vegetables and wholefoods, so you are getting all the nutrients and fibre you require, but your main protein source is some kind of mock meat. It might contain a small amount of polyunsaturated fat and a little salt, but these things are necessary in small quantities (In summer when we sweat more, I have to have added salt to prevent night cramps) The point I am trying to make really, is that it is easy to throw around a single word to demonize everything that is considered "unnatural" while doctoring food in our own way at home to create something enjoyable to eat. Vitamin B12 supplements, and tofu are also unnatural but most "wholefood" vegans will happily eat them. So again, surely the issue isn't the fact that something is processed, but rather how it is processed?
 
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shyvas

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Ok, but let's say you have a plate full of vegetables and wholefoods, so you are getting all the nutrients and fibre you require, but your main protein source is some kind of mock meat. It might contain a small amount of polyunsaturated fat and a little salt, but these things are necessary in small quantities (In summer when we sweat more, I have to have added salt to prevent night cramps) The point I am trying to make really, is that it is easy to throw around a single word to demonize everything that is considered "unnatural" while doctoring food in our own way at home to create something enjoyable to eat. Vitamin B12 supplements, and tofu are also unnatural but most "wholefood" vegans will happily eat them. So again, surely the issue isn't the fact that something is processed, but rather how it is processed?
I wasn't trying to get into an argument because I eat processed food in small quantities. I think that when food that is heavily processed or if we eat too much of it may not be good for the health. Apparently people are eating far too much salt and sugar compared to 40 years ago.

Everything in moderation and a little of what you fancy is certainly good for one's well being. ;)
 

Brian1

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I wasn't trying to get into an argument because I eat processed food in small quantities. I think that when food that is heavily processed or if we eat too much of it may not be good for the health. Apparently people are eating far too much salt and sugar compared to 40 years ago.

Everything in moderation and a little of what you fancy is certainly good for one's well being. ;)
I know you weren't shyvas, nor was I, I just wanted to make sure I had expressed myself clearly. ;)
 

TofuRobot

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What we mean by "processed," to put it simply, is food that was made in a plant. Think veggie burgers, bottled salad dressings, canned soup, any fast food, instant mashed potatoes, instant ramen, most packaged chips, store-bought mock meats and cheeses, plain white pasta, oil, added salt, and sugar, sodas/pops, etc. And, if your concern is long-term health and longevity, it is "that bad," if your diet relies heavily on these types of foods.

Dr. Greger probably explains it the best:

...Processed, packaged foods not only have unnecessary and potentially harmful to your health added ingredients, they also have many of the necessary nutrients stripped away. And yes, we need some fat and salt in our diets, but whole plant foods have all we need of those nutrients, and are combined with fiber when consuming them whole.

Of course, if, as a vegan, you're not as concerned with health as much as ethical and environmental concerns, than these things don't really matter as much.
 
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Indian Summer

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I don't think 'processed' has a clear-cut definition - which is okay. Just as long as we understand that what one person thinks it means is not necessarily what other people think.
What we mean by "processed," to put it simply, is food that was made in a plant.
Well, wholewheat pasta is also usually made in a plant. Brown rice goes through some processing before it ends up in the grocery shop. Tofu, seitan and tempeh are definitely processed soya beans / wheat. Plant milks are processed. I agree with the rest of your post. I guess the idea is to eat mostly foods that are less processed i.e. more like wholefoods, and mostly avoid more heavily processed foods.

I wish my own diet had more wholefoods and less heavily processed stuff. I don't eat total junk food, usually, but there is some definite room for improvement.
 

TofuRobot

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I don't think 'processed' has a clear-cut definition - which is okay. Just as long as we understand that what one person thinks it means is not necessarily what other people think.

Well, wholewheat pasta is also usually made in a plant. Brown rice goes through some processing before it ends up in the grocery shop. Tofu, seitan and tempeh are definitely processed soya beans / wheat. Plant milks are processed. I agree with the rest of your post. I guess the idea is to eat mostly foods that are less processed i.e. more like wholefoods, and mostly avoid more heavily processed foods.

I wish my own diet had more wholefoods and less heavily processed stuff. I don't eat total junk food, usually, but there is some definite room for improvement.
I hear what you're saying, I just go by what the WFPB doctors advise. Some (not a lot) of whole wheat pasta, tofu, and plant milks) are acceptable because they either pose minimal risk or have certain nutritional benefit; oil is not. That's why I shared the link. They do a better job of explaining it. =)

"Made in a plant" is just an ready simplification of how to think about it, with a few, exceptions.
 
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TofuRobot

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...The idea is to try to eat food that is as close to its original form as possible and avoid, especially, anything highly processed, like oil, or anything else that is otherwise "extracted" from something.

From the link I shared:

"Some processed foods have health benefits, including peanut butter, blueberry jam, homemade cranberry “juice,” apple juice, grape juice, soy products (but not tofu from Indonesia processed with formaldehyde), popcorn (but not with butter flavor), and cocoa (but not chocolate). Gum Arabic can be considered harmless.

Processed foods often contain additives, preservatives, and other chemical ingredients. Avoiding processed food additives like polysorbate 80 may help reduce risk for Crohn’s disease. The food coloring, Red dye #3, often added to processed foods, may be linked to increased thyroid cancer risk (see also here). Artificial food dyes overall in processed foods may increase inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity among young children (see also here). Sticking largely with whole, plant-based foods is a good way to avoid aluminum compounds that may be added to processed foods. Processed cheeses often contain such additives. For those experiencing gluten sensitivity symptoms, avoiding processed foods may help. Research has found that the intake of processed, fried, and stir-fried meat is linked to increased breast tissue DNA mutations. Nitrites used in processed meats are considered carcinogenic. An NIH-AARP study found nitrites associated with increased kidney cancer risk.

If I were at home and had the time, I'd share some links from the other experts who advise this type of diet - Esslystein, T. Colin Campbell, and the like. - but I think you get the idea.
 

PTree15

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I always took "processed" to mean not nutritious or healthy and yeah, not whole foods. Ready-to-eat meals in boxes come to mind, like mac and cheese, mock meats, cheese, oils, white foods like bread and pasta, etc.
 
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silva

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First you need to come to grips with what you deem as "bad".
I've read the book Whole by Colin Campbell and highly recommend it, it goes into detail why the whole food is much greater than the sum of it's parts.
How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger is another very well researched book, as well as his How Not to Diet
I have followed the wfpb way of eating, even Gregers daily dozen, and I will testify that going all out to eat the best possible is quite amazing!
I continue to fall off that wagon- I eat a very healthy, whole breakfast and lunch, but all too often come home and eat such junk.
 

Andy_T

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Interesting, I just saw a long article in the Guardian about that exact issue.
What was interesting are the references to Brazil, where they are trying to limit such foods.

 
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Nekodaiden

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What do we mean by "processed"; is it really that bad? When we wash food or peel it or cook it or mix it with other things we are processing it. Is it really useful to use the term "processed" as a one-size-fits-all reason to demonize any particular food? How much damage does "processing" actually do?

It's a vague term that I've seen misused by some.

A can of beans in tomato sauce is processed. The beans have been cooked,
the tomato sauce is likely partially extracted, and there's likely white sugar
added.

The salad one may buy pre-packaged at the supermarket, that contains shredded veggies like carrot and lettuce and others, but otherwise no other added ingredients.

A mock meat that is almost wholly from extracted materials, ie: extracted
protein, extracted flavors including extracted spices, extracted fat ( such
as oil), extracted starch etc.

All 3 are processed, the packaged salad being the least, followed by the
beans and then the mock meat in this example.

I guess if one is going by a strict definition of processed one will avoid
all three.

I don't use the general term as a measurement, I tend to think more in terms
of stripped and refined, and how much so. White rice is nice, but unless one is also getting fiber and nutrients from some other sources, and in sufficient quantities, it'll leave one hungry and (eventually deficient). I extend the stripped and refined to "created in a lab", where the "food" is stripped, refined, recombined chemically etc and just avoid.


All that being said, if one doesn't already have a major health issue to address, where strict whole foods may be absolutely necessary, as a vegan I've found one can get away with quite a lot, depending on how good one want's to feel. I'm still relatively new, into my 3rd year now, and managed to make it swilling beer too often, using a little oil and having the occasional white pasta,
vegan ice cream loaded with sugar etc. That being said, I make sure also to include plenty of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and some fruit to meet my needs.

So far, so good.

@Veganite
@Andy_T

Are you watching? Waiting, perhaps? Does my post fit your criteria as acceptable on veganforum.org and the image you imagine all people should have of vegans? I'm ready to adopt "plant based" or "strict vegetarian" so as to uphold whatever ideal that is in your minds.

Curious Neko wants to know. Because I know neither of you like me, and now Andy_T thinks I'm a bad boy too.

:grinning:
 

GingerFoxx

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When I say I try to avoid processed foods, I am defining it for myself as things with either artificial colors/flavors or preservatives added OR heaviliy refined foods, like flours that have all the fiber and such stripped out of them. Aside from that, I don't worry too much if it is something manufactured, though I do try to cook more things from scratch because manufactured foods have a lot of salt added, usually.
 
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