Consumers today have a plethora of food choices. In this aspect, processed foods are considered as a boon since they offer both variety and enjoyment in our diets. They are useful since in our busy lifestyle, we hardly have the time to prepare and consume wholesome food, and these help our body get the required nutrition.
But there are a lot of misconceptions that consumers have regarding processed foods, which are mostly due to lack of awareness or few cases where processed foods have been found to be harmful. Nevertheless, here are 3 major myths that surround these food items:
Myth # 1 : Processed foods offer no benefits
Fact: Food processing makes many foods available that we could not otherwise eat.
In addition, food processing provides the opportunity for a large variety of food products to be available throughout the year. Frozen and canned seasonal fruits, vegetables and meat products are examples.
Also, food processing increases the shelf life of the food products. Tinned fish and UHT milk are two examples of nutritious foods that are readily available as a result of food processing.
Processing also improves food safety by a variety of methods– for example, harmful bacteria are killed when food is heated to sufficiently high temperature.
Myth # 2 : Processed foods are not as nutritious as fresh foods
Fact: Many processed foods are just as nutritious or in some cases even more nutritious than fresh foods that have been stored; although it depends on the manner in which they are processed.
Frozen vegetables are usually processed within a few hours of harvest. The nutrient loss is less from the freezing process, hence frozen vegetables retain their high vitamin and mineral content. But, fresh vegetables are picked and transported to market. It can take days or even weeks before they reach the dinner table and vitamins are gradually lost over time no matter how carefully the vegetables are transported and stored. But food processing can also add nutrients to the product.
For example, Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant (a protective substance for the body) found in tomatoes and watermelons, has been shown to become more available to the body when the tomatoes are processed into for example tomato paste, ketchup or soup.
Myth # 3 : The additives in processed foods are not necessary
Fact: Food additives play an important role in preserving the freshness, safety, taste, appearance and texture of processed foods. Food additives are added for particular purposes, whether it is to ensure food safety or to maintain food quality during the shelf-life of a product. For example, antioxidants prevent fats and oils from becoming rancid while preservatives prevent or reduce the growth of microbes (e.g. mould on bread) and thickeners allow fruit preparations to “gel” so they can be spread onto toasted bread.
Food colors are used to increase the appeal of foods. While they do not improve safety or texture, they offer consumers a choice of products that may have a visual appeal.
But it should be kept in mind that all food additives must be approved by appropriate authorities and that strict limits are placed on the amount and types of additives in foods.
This Food Safety Month 2016, get loads of information on how to maintain Food Safety. The campaign aims to convey the message of healthy eating and storage practices.
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