First of all, let's define "processed food". My definition is that processed food is any food or food-like substance that is not in its original form. Box mixes are processed foods. Pasta is a processed food. An apple is not. An apple pie is. Applesauce is a processed food. A food that has been 'worked on' is a processed food.
Where it starts to get tricky is when you start defining what type of processing has been done. To what degree has a real food been converted into a processed food?
I realize that most of our foods are processed to appeal to our modern day palates. Most folks like their peas cooked, not raw. Same goes for meats. Boiling peas is a very basic processing step. Grilling meat is pretty basic too. Peas in canned pea soup are processed more and usually have more added to it for flavor. Meat that is breaded and fried is more processed. Meat that is ground up is even more processed. Meat that is finely ground
Think about bread for a moment. On the back of most loaves of bread in the store, you'll see dozens of ingredients and additives. Most homemade breads are variations of flour, water, a bit of salt, and yeast. (mmmm YUM!!! homemade bread!!!) How long does a store-bought loaf taste fresh and soft? How long does homemade taste fresh and soft?
Take a bite of store-bought bread and it practically melts in your mouth. It will do that on day one and day two and day three and day four and day five and day six and often, even longer!
Take a bite of homemade bread and it is a bit more chewy. It tastes really good that first day, especially when still warm from the oven. Day two and it is ok. Day three it is french toast. Day four it is often bird food or frozen for stuffing in whole chickens or bread puddings. I think of the store-bought bread as pre-digested. Some of the work your gut is supposed to do, is already done by the pre-processing of the store-bought bread.
I tend to think of most foods this way...the more you don't have to do to it, the better it is for you. Remember the closer you are to picking it, plucking it, or shooting it, the more your food is not processed.
This is gross, but think of how a bird feeds its young. A bird eats a bug, processes that bug in its gut and then regurgitates pre-processed food into the baby bird's mouth. It makes it easier for the baby bird to digest. Processed foods get easier and easier to digest through our gut. The faster it breaks down, the faster it is absorbed. The faster it is absorbed, the faster it gets into our system and gets stored, often as fat. And who knows how many additives and questionable chemicals are also added in there? Is that good?
I am not a scientist but this all makes sense to me. Processed food just is not processed by our systems in the same way or in the best way for us as humans. Processed foods contribute to our weight gaining society. It may even make our systems hang on to calories from them as fat. I believe this to be true. Do you?
I try to eat the least processed foods that I can, however, I do not totally avoid processed foods. You have to choose what is best for YOU. Sometimes that might be what I do, but all the time, it should be what YOU do for YOU!
As Tim Gunn says, "Make it work!"
As Walker Lady says, "Walk-On!"