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Processed foods myth buster

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Published: 7 October 2020

Person reaching for donuts

This week, the Health and Wellbeing team are looking at the choices we make when we eat. Specifically – processed food.  

Read on to learn what goes into making your treats so delicious, as well as not so great for you. 

When we discuss processed foods, we often think about unhealthy snacks or takeaways. But while this is true, they’re not the only kind we need to know. 

good definition is any food that’s been changed in some way during preparation. It could be as simple as freezing, canning, baking or drying it. 

Common include cereals, cheese, canned vegetables, microwave meals and cakes.  

Not all processed meals are unhealthy though. Most things we eat need something doing to them before becoming edible. 

But then there are foods with added ingredients like salt, sugar and fat. They’re mostly included for flavour and to extend the shelf-life but make what you’re eating much less healthy. 

The key facts 

  • Lots of the things we eat have had key nutrients taken out, making them not as good for you. 
  • Many snacks include added sugar. Again, that’s to improve the taste, but it can also lead to excess calorie consumption and weight gain. 
  • When foods are changed chemically, dietary fibre is often removed, slowing down digestion and making us feel fuller. Without it, our bodies process the food quicker and you get fewer nutrients.  
  • Have you ever noticed it’s difficult to stop eating a big bag of crisps once you’ve opened it? That's because of the added salt releasing the chemical messenger dopamine which control’s the brain’s pleasure centre.  
  • There are a lot of things in our snacks the average person wouldn’t even recognise. Take a look at the ingredients list the next time you buy a ready meal. You’ll find hard to pronounce words that are really just artificial chemicals included to improve the taste.  
  • Processed foods are often the cause of rises and falls in your blood sugar levels which can affect mood and sleep. 

An important thing to remember is food companies are businesses. Their aim is to get you to buy the product. 

Everything about what they sell is focused on that goal, from chemical modifications to the design of the packaging. 

In the end, you have control over what you’re eating. Knowledge and awareness of what’s in your food can help you make healthy choices. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to the occasional doughnut but try and think about how often you’re eating those kinds of things. 

If you want to talk with the Health and Wellbeing team about diet and studying, or any other issue around your health, book a one-to-one appointment today. 

Get in touch through Compass or email them at londonhealth@sunderland.ac.uk. Find out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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