The Difference Between Processed and Refined Foods

It's a general rule of thumb that 'processed foods are bad for you.'  If you stay away from processed foods, you'll be doing yourself a health favor right?

Generally, this is true, but precisely, it is not.  

Why?  Because some processed foods are really good for you AND they can help you eat more whole-grains, fruits, veggies and legumes, foods mostly all Americans need to eat more of.  

So, how can you tell the difference between a processed food that's good for you and one that isn't?

It's actually a matter of vocabulary.  You need to know the difference between a processed food and a refined food.  When the word 'processed' is thrown around, it generally means refined.

A refined food is a food that doesn't contain all of its original nutrients.  You can't pick a refined food out of the garden and eat it (it's not a whole food).  

Refined foods include oil, sugar, white flour and products made of these ingredients.  Examples include white and wheat breads, cakes, pastries, pretzels, cookies, most wraps, chips, Doritos etc. 

A processed food is simply a food that has gone through a process.  A processed food can be a refined food, however it can also be a healthy whole food that has simply been chopped, rolled or ground, aka gone through a process.

A processed food could be good for you or bad for you.  It depends on whether it's a processed whole food or a processed refined food.

Processed foods that are bad for you include white bread, most 'wheat' breads, chips, cookies, most crackers, cakes and treats.  These processed foods are bad for you because they contain refined ingredients.  You aren't eating a whole food or a food made from just whole foods.

Processed foods that are good for you include 100% whole-grain breads, crackers, pitas, pastas, ground corn tortillas or other 100% whole-grain products.  Additionally, rolled or steal cut oats, dried fruit or frozen vegetables are also health enhancing processed foods.  They've all gone through a process, but the food still contains 100% of its original nutrients, unlike refined foods.  

Kapeesh?  If you have any questions about processed versus refined foods, ask in the comments section or contact me.  I'd love to hear from you :)

Take Control Now Question

What healthy processed foods do you enjoy eating?  What unhealthy refined foods are you still eating regularly that you shouldn't?  

Answer by clicking 'comments' below.