Processed Foods You Can Love

The term “processed food” has gained a distinctly negative meaning, and in many cases it’s well deserved. But, just like most every “broad brush” judgment there’s a little more to the story. And, if we’re going to make responsible eating decisions – and we ARE – it’s important to know the details.

Technically, processing a food is simply altering that food from its natural state. In our infamous “western” diet that often means degrading the nutritional value of a food – like removing the germ and bran from grains – or adding sugar, salt, fat, trans fat, nitrite, preservatives, flavor enhancers, coloring agents, and so forth. It would be hard to argue that these kinds of “processing” promote healthy eating, and there is a good deal of evidence for clearly negative impacts on health.

On that note, however, consider these processed foods that have clear benefits to diabetes management, and even to health.

  • Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables – The extended shelf life of these indisputably healthy foods means you can have an impressive variety on hand any time of year, ready to prepare at a moment’s notice. And, if you buy frozen and canned fruits and vegetables with no added sugars, fat or salt (read the ingredients on the nutrition facts label) you may be surprised to know that they will be just as healthy – sometimes even more healthy – than fresh. Plus, these foods are often easy on the pocketbook, and because they store well you can stock up when they’re on sale.
  • Raisins and other dried fruit – There is a positive side and negative side to dried fruit. On the good side, dried fruit is as healthy as fresh – it’s only missing the water. On the negative side, the serving size can seem small, so the carbohydrates can add up quickly. A 15 grams-of-carbohydrate portion for raisins and other dried berries (like cranberries) is only 2 tablespoons, for example. On the other hand, 2 tablespoons of raisins is a tasty way to compensate for low blood glucose, and dried fruit (again) has a much longer shelf life than fresh.
  • Pasteurized dairy – Yes, there are advocates for raw milk, but I’m willing to bet most of them have never suffered a Listeria infection. The pasteurization of milk is a food processing advance that not only improves the shelf life, but greatly reduces the potential for illness. In fact, the incidence of actual illness related to dairy products is 150 times higher when raw dairy products are involved.

It may seem strange to be thankful for processed food, but in some cases we can be.

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