Why fresh food is so much better than processed

There is a lot of talk in the media and pretty much everywhere about how the ‘old ways’ of cooking are much better than the new. One such subject is food. That subject is not only very contentious, it is also full of questionable assumptions and misinformation.

However, one thing is clear, fresh food is undoubtedly better than processed food. But why? And what counts as processed food? Here are The Stone Grill, we make everything from base ingredients so have a vested interest in people appreciating fresh food. However, as members of a wider society, we also want people to be healthy and function well.

What is processed food?

Technically, processed food is regarded as any food that isn’t in its original condition or has been through a process. Equally technically, fresh vegetables that have been washed, peeled and bagged are processed but don’t really compare to a ready meal. Add a chemical process into the mix and you begin to get more of a distinction.

Adding salt, artificial colours, preservatives or changing the composition of food is what we would typically call food processing.

Why is fresh food better?

If processed foods can be fortified or have vitamins added, why are they not better than fresh? The common belief is that the more you mess with an ingredient and the further you take it from its natural state, the more nutrients you remove.

The current thinking is that natural nutrients are better than chemically formulated ones. So vitamin C taken from a fresh tomato is thought to be much more beneficial than ascorbic acid added to food. The body processes natural foods much more efficiently and can extract more nutrition from those foods, which has an obviously beneficial effect.

That’s why in our restaurant we will usually have only one or two processes to create our dishes. They will typically involve some form of preparation, peeling, marinating or whatever and a cooking process. Preserve the ingredient as much as possible and you also preserve the flavour. Flavour not only elevates the dining experience, it also enhances the nutritional content. So the closer you serve an ingredient to its natural state, the more of that goodness you maintain.

How can I tell how processed my food is?

There is one simple way to tell how processed a food is. Read the label. The more ingredients it contains, the fewer actual foodstuffs mentioned and the longer and more complicated the ingredient names are, the more processed it is. Essentially, if you need a degree in chemistry to understand what is in a food, it won’t contain much nutrition!

While I’m certainly not going to tell you not to eat this stuff, I would like you to think about what this food offers your body in terms of fuel and nutrition.

As this is a huge subject, I’m going to continue this next week. Join us then to continue the conversation!

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