How To Choose The Healthiest Processed Foods

Processed food accounts for a large percentage of the average person’s diet. When you shop in a grocery store, almost every food besides the fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat has been processed in some way. Current wisdom holds that these foods are unhealthy and should be avoided, but that is not practical advice for most people. Fortunately, not all processed foods are created equal, and it is possible to make healthier choices if you keep a few things in mind.

First of all, choose the foods that have the shortest list of ingredients. A bag of frozen broccoli, for example, should contain only broccoli. While frozen veggies may be a bit lower in nutrients that vegetables that have just been harvested, they are likely to have as many or more nutrients than the vegetables that were harvested weeks before they arrived in your grocery store.

Choose foods that are low in sodium. Sodium is a common ingredient in many processed foods because salt acts as a preservative. However, the American Heart Association recommends consuming only 1500 mg of sodium, or 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt, per day because sodium is a known risk factor for high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Some food companies are responding by making products that are lower in salt. Many canned vegetables, beans, broths, and soups are available in regular and low sodium versions.

Choose foods that are low in sugar and avoid high fructose corn syrup. Sugar is often a hidden ingredient in seemingly healthy foods. Canned fruits and applesauce are often quite high in sugar, as are many tomato sauce products. Fortunately, if you read labels carefully, you can find fruits that are canned in water only or in natural juice, and tomato sauces that contain no added sugar.

Choose foods that do not contain artificial ingredients like preservatives, dyes, sweeteners, and flavorings. Many of these ingredients are controversial, and some, like nitrates and nitrites, two preservatives, have been strongly linked to an increased risk of cancer and other health problems. Check out this page by Hampton Creek to learn about one company that is making healthy processed foods with no harmful ingredients.