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Exactly what is “wrong” with processed foods? At the same time, what is “right” about something that is “hand-crafted?” Now, as a home brewer and a craft beer enthusiast, I am certainly “guilty” of favoring brewers that “hand-craft” their beer and whose ingredients, I am told, are lightly or not “processed” …

Note that “processed” does not mean, “we added nasty chemicals to it.” Indeed, when you prepare your meal at home, unless you are eating raw foods picked from your garden, you yourself are “processing” food. I am pretty sure there are as many dangerous and unhealthy “natural” and unprocessed foods just as there are surely plenty of healthful and safe processed foods. If that is in fact the case, then why is there such a fear of “processed” foods and what is the agenda of folks that use the term in a derogatory manner?

For example, I am starting a new sourdough starter today, from scratch, made with freshly ground organic rye flour. By the end, when I am ready to start baking it, the starter will have been heavily “processed” but I am sure that I would be able to get away with selling this as “made from scratch, organic, hand-made” sourdough bread.

2 Responses to “Processed”

  1. Harry says:

    This obsession with processed anything has to be rooted in the yearning to go back to pre-industrial revolution times when farmers cut the wheat with scythes, bound it into sheaves, flailed it on the barn floor (the women and children would help), and gathered it up to take it to the windmill, paying the miller and Lord their share, and taking their share home to make home made whole grain bread or mixing it with honey to make granola bars. But wait! The miller grinds the grain! With wind power!

    OK, the free-range chicken lay the eggs. The women spin the yarn and weave the cloth. Ted Kaczynski’s dream life, in Earth tones.

  2. Hasdrubal says:

    Commercially manufactured and produced processed foods are chock full of salt to improve shelf life and flavor. A 4oz McDonald’s Cheeseburger has 680mg sodium, how much salt do you put into a half pound burger when you grill it?

    They’re stuffed with simple carbohydrates that convert to sugar exceptionally fast, leading to spikes in your blood sugar levels, in turn leading to spikes in your insulin levels which lead to crashing blood sugar: That after meal grogginess is the result of too many carbs and too few proteins and fats. All those ups and down lead to insulin resistance, i.e. type 2 diabetes. Also, insulin triggers fat storage, so it’s those blood sugar spikes from eating carbs that really contributes to obesity.

    They’re filled with hydrogenated oils composed of trans fats for shelf life, texture and flavor. Those things are pretty nasty, not just cholesterol but they also impact the composition of your cell membranes, making it more difficult to transfer nutrients from the bloodstream into the cell.

    Nobody but nobody uses as much salt in home cooking as food manufacturers use in processed food. Almost nobody even uses as much salt as professional chefs do at restaurants. We tend to use fewer fats, and not as many hydrogenated fats as industrially produced foods, as well. And while your sourdough is composed of simple carbohydrates just like other processed foods, it’s probably going to be only one of several things you eat in a home cooked meal and only a few of those will be as carb heavy as industrially processed food.

    So, yes, cooking is certainly processing food and there are plenty of unhealthy home cooked options. But the way we cook is different than the way we industrially create processed food, meaning home cooked food is generally healthier due to the nutritional balance. That’s without even looking at chemical additives, which may or may not be good or bad for you, depending on the specific chemical and the dose.

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