what is processed food

Processed Food : The Best Advice for a Balanced Diet

A lot of people wonder what processed food is and what effects it’s likely to have on their health.

There’s also the question of how much-processed food is too much for a balanced diet and healthy weight.

If you’re one of those looking to learn more about processed foods, you’ve arrived at the answer.

Here’s what you should know about processed food.

What is processed food?

Processed food is any food that no longer retains its natural texture or state.

This means it has either been canned, frozen, cut, dried, washed, or even baked.

Is processed food bad for you?

what is processed food

No, it isn’t. Processed food in itself is not bad for you but the point where you have to draw the line is with highly processed foods that result in high levels of salt, fat, and sugar.

What type of food is processed food?

There are various types of pro-cessed foods; here are some of the most popular:

  • Wheat bread
  • Biscuits
  • Cakes
  • Processed beef eg bacon, sausage
  • Cheese
  • Instant noodles
  • Margarine
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Granola bars
  • Vegan meat alternatives

What are ultra-processed foods?

Ultra-processed foods are ready-to-eat often packaged foods.

They include sweetened breakfast cereal and other snacks of foods that contain extra salt, sugar, or preservatives.

List of processed food to avoid?

Here’s a list of pro-cessed food to avoid or reduce drastically in your diet because they are ultra or highly-processed.

You can also swap them for more healthy meals where necessary:

  • Energy drink
  • Sweetened breakfast cereal
  • White bread
  • Soda
  • Mashed potato flakes
  • Flavored potato chip
  • Fast food like French fries and burgers

What foods are not processed

Unprocessed foods have lots of benefits including a healthy immune system, increased energy, better sleep and so much more.

These foods are the naturally edible parts of plants and animals and they include:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Herbs and spices
  • Whole grains
  • Minimally processed meat and seafood
  • Beans
  • Nuts

Difference between processed food and unprocessed food


Processed food

Processed food refers to any food item that has undergone deliberate changes from its natural state through various methods such as cooking, canning, freezing, drying, or adding preservatives, flavors, colors, or other additives.

Unprocessed food

Unprocessed food, also known as whole food, is any food item that remains in its natural state or has undergone minimal changes from its original form.

It typically includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fresh meats or fish.

Nutritional Content:

Processed food

Pro-cessed foods often undergo refining processes that remove or modify certain nutrients and may have added sugars, unhealthy fats, sodium, and artificial additives.

They generally have lower nutritional value compared to unprocessed foods.

Unprocessed food

Unprocessed foods are rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.

They offer higher nutritional value, as they retain their natural composition and are less likely to contain added unhealthy substances.

Ingredient List:

Processed food

Pro-cessed food has a longer ingredient list, including various additives, preservatives, flavor enhancers, and stabilizers.

These additives are used to improve taste, texture, shelf life, and appearance.

Unprocessed food

Unprocessed food consists of a single ingredient or a short list of recognizable and natural ingredients.

It does not contain added chemicals or artificial substances.

Health Impact

Pro-cessed food

Consuming excessive amounts of processed foods, especially those high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium, has been associated with increased risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions.

Unprocessed food

Unprocessed foods, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, provide essential nutrients and contribute to better overall health.

They are generally associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Preparation and Cooking:

Processed food

Pro-cessed foods are often pre-cooked or require minimal preparation, making them convenient and time-saving.

They are typically ready-to-eat or require minimal cooking or reheating.

Unprocessed food

Unprocessed foods usually require more time and effort for preparation and cooking.

They often need washing, cutting, cooking, or combining with other ingredients to create a complete meal.

How do you know if food is processed?

Pro-cessed foods share the same characteristics, canning, freezing, packaging, cutting, heating, and drying.

These foods may also require preservatives like salt, sugar, and other additives.

More related questions

Is rice processed food?

No, it’s not. Rice, especially white rice, is a highly pro-cessed food that can spike blood sugar levels.

It’s better to eat rice as part of a balanced diet.

Is spaghetti pro-cessed food?

Yes, it is. White plain spaghetti is processed. However, packaged edible spaghetti is ultra-processed. 

Are eggs pro-cessed food?

No, they are not. Eggs are unprocessed or minimally processed.

Is yogurt a pro-cessed food?

Plain yogurt is minimally processed. However, sweetened yogurt is ultra-processed.


Understanding food processing can help you achieve a balance in your everyday meals.

Unprocessed foods are naturally healthier, while processed foods tend to have more nutritional value than ultra-processed foods.

Now that you know the difference, you can easily prioritize foods that have a positive impact on your overall well-being and health.  

Thanks for reading.