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Surprising Science

Processed Food Is Good for You

The dietary zeitgeist favors foods that are ‘whole’ over those that are ‘processed’. But omitting processed, packaged foods can make it hard to meet your body’s dietary needs.   

What’s the Latest Development?

Connie Weaver, head of Purdue University’s Department of Food and Nutrition, recently emphasized the nutritional value of processed foods before the American Dietetic Association in San Diego. “It is not a good recommendation to think people can have ‘fresh’ and ‘local’ foods meet all their nutrient needs,” said Weaver. “We depend a lot on processed foods.” Despite the current emphasis on eating whole, local foods, processed foods are convenient, nutritious and practically unavoidable. Weaver said emphasis should be placed on identifying the healthiest processed foods. 

What’s the Big Idea?

So much of today’s food is processed that trying to categorically avoid it may leave your body without the nutrition it needs. Instead, look at food labels to avoid excess amounts of sodium, artificial colors, trans fats, artificial sweeteners and ‘too many stabilizers, which portend a product that’s not going to taste as good’. What’s important is what food processing leaves behind. Among the healthiest processed foods are yogurt, canned beans, jarred spaghetti sauce, oatmeal, canned salmon, peanut butter and frozen vegetables. 


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