Whole-food diets with a focus on the least possible amount of processing are quite popular with the health-minded consumer of the 21st century. Some enthusiasts even go so far as eating a raw-only diet, free from even the lightest processing such as boiling. Movements like Paleo encourage consumption of unprocessed foods. The idea behind them is that our ancestors ate these ancient, similarly raw diets, and so the human body is naturally adapted to eat like this.
There is some evidence that this argument has merit – but practitioners may lose out on some of the benefits of food processing. It’s not all bad! Here are a few examples of instances where processed foods are actually good for you.
Although they are refined, there are many superfood extracts that are used in supplements, which can be beneficial to your health. Examples of superfood extracts that may boost health include chlorella, spirulina, fish oil, garlic, curcumin (turmeric), and others. Each of these foods contains powerful compounds with proven scientific credibility. They can act to create hugely positive changes in the body. Unfortunately, in their natural forms, these products contain too little of the precious compounds to deliver the results derived from supplements produced by a quality manufacturer.
Since many assume it to be simply a tasty morning meal, the health benefits of oats are often overlooked. However, oats have the proven ability to reduce cholesterol, limit blood sugar spikes (which is especially important for diabetics), fight cancerous growth and more.
There are two main types of oats available at the supermarket – rolled and steel-cut. Steel-cut oats are “processed” by cutting the oats with steel rather than “rolling” them. There are several important differences between the two types. For example, steel-cut oats are naturally gluten-free.
As with the more conventional supplements mentioned above, nootropics are a new health trend with promise for improving cognition, mood, and focus by harnessing benefits from plant compounds that show evidence of increasing brain performance. Examples of popular nootropics include ginseng, rapamycin, gotu kola, ginkgo biloba and L-theanine. Many of these compounds, such as L-theanine, which is found in green tea, exist in natural products, but they are not found in sufficient amounts to achieve the desired effects. Through an extraction process, supplements can provide more concentrated amounts for greater benefit.
Just because a food or supplement is processed in some way does not automatically mean it should be avoided. Instead, consider which types of processed foods are beneficial and exactly what the processing involves for each individual product.