Processed Foods - and Your Regressing Health!

January 28, 2022

We Keep Hearing Or Reading That Processed Foods Are Harmful To Our Health. But Are They All Bad?

Many foods which are mechanically processed through grinding, heating or pasteurising are not harmful as they do not contain any added ingredients such as refined or artificial ones 1.

What needs to be avoided are chemically processed foods that have additives, preservatives, chemical flavouring agents, sweeteners, or colours. These include ready-to-eat foods,  processed meats (ham, sausage, etc.), frozen foods, instant foods, carbonated beverages 1, etc.

Processed foods are also called convenience foods as they require less time and effort by the consumers in preparing and consuming them and are also cheaper.

These foods are detrimental for health because they have high amounts of added sugars, added salts, and very low dietary fibre, proteins, vitamins and minerals 1.

These foods have led to increased rates of lifestyle-related disorders like obesity, diabetes mellitus, PCOD/PCOS, thyroid issues,  gut health issues and micronutrient deficiencies.  Moreover, they have contributed to the triple burden of malnutrition (overnutrition, undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies) worldwide 1.

A recent study reported that increasing the consumption of processed foods by 10 per cent results in a 10 per cent increase in the risks of cardiovascular diseases and cerebrovascular disorders 1.

What experimental studies have shown is that these ultra-processed foods are capable of inducing high glycaemic responses and low satiety potential. They also affect our gut environment by causing inflammatory diseases that trigger our gut 2. Along with deterioration of overall nutritional quality of diet, ultra-processed foods are causing metabolic syndrome, gastrointestinal disorders, and even breast cancers 2.

The process of producing ultra-processed foods includes the fractionation of whole foods and adding salt, sugar, oils and fats. Foods that are known to cause inflammation such as corn, wheat, soya are mostly used in such foods along with preserved animal meats. These food substances undergo procedures like hydrogenation, hydrolysis or other chemical modifications. To increase the palatability of the ultra-processed foods, colours, emulsifiers and additives are added to them 2. Such as:

  • Many forms of added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, invert sugar, maltodextrin, dextrose, lactose, etc. are shown in the name of sugar in the ingredient list of the ultra-processed foods. 
  • Modified oils like hydrogenated oils and hydrolysed proteins are used. 
  • Additives like flavour enhancers, emulsifiers, salts, sweeteners, thickeners, anti-foaming agents, bulking agents, carbonating agents, foaming agents, gelling agents, and glazing agents are added to enhance the flavour, taste, smell and other sensory properties of the foods 2.

The main reason why ultra-processed foods have attracted so much of the population is that they are low-cost ingredients, highly palatable, have long shelf-life, save time, are imperishable and ready to consume 2.

The nature of processing and the types of ingredients added are the reasons why these ultra-processed foods are found to be unhealthy.  The way these foods have replaced organic and real foods has led to an increased risk of lifestyle-related disorders, cardiovascular disorders, unwanted weight gain and eating disorders in the majority of the population worldwide 2.

So, think and choose your food, for then you will choose your way of life!


Pankhuri Purnima
Functional Nutritionist

Pankhuri is qualified with a Bachelors' degree in Home Science and Masters' degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, with the specialization of Public Health and Nutrition. She is also a Certified Functional Nutritionist. She has a keen interest in nutritional counseling, nutrition education, and health awareness. She strives to motivate and educate the public towards holistic health and nutrition through nutritional awareness and lifestyle as well as dietary modifications.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.