To say that I didn’t know that processed foods are worse for you than whole foods would be a lie. But I admit that I didn’t quite know why. It was this morning, when I was eating my heavily processed corn flake cereal, that a collection of seemingly unconnected bits of data came together into one large and organized jumble of “why”.
I’ve recently started reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and although only partially thought it, I’ve learned a lot about our society’s food systems already, and am thoroughly enjoying it. It was on his section about over processing of corn that I finally realized why processed foods are less nutritious: because they are so heavily broken down to the smallest and most simplest of edible particles that there really isn’t anything left to them. Think of it like cooking vegetables. Your greatest amount of possible nutrients are usually in their raw form. But we tend to like them better (and digest them better) when they are slightly cooked. That’s okay, but of course, the more we cook it, the more nutrients are lost- that’s why quick boiling, or better yet, steaming are best. Just think about overcooked broccoli- it turns to mush, falls apart in the water, and a lot of your once whole broccoli (let alone the nutrients) is no longer easily scooped up to be eaten. This is what happens to processed food! So much so, that a lot of foods (in Pollan’s case, corn products such as cereals) have a later step of reintroducing synthetically produces vitamins and mineral to the food product!
So simply put, the less processed your food it, the more “whole” it is. The more “whole” it is, the more nutrition remains intact, and the better it is for you. Ta-da! A simple explanation, but one I never really learned. There is so much that this book is teaching me, so much more than I could ever type. Less than a hundred pages in and I’m already radically changing my thoughts on what I eat. And by radical, I don’t mean changing all my eating habits and going crazy localvore vegan homesteader, I mean, for once I’m finally opening my eyes and paying more attention to everything I’m eating. It’s a very enjoyable experience. I highly recommend the book to everyone as an enjoyable and educational eye-opener.