Most Consumers Wouldn’t Expect These Foods To Be Processed

Processed foods often have a negative connotation and are usually associated with junk foods with harmful chemicals. According to Eat Right, if a food is processed, it simply means that it has been “cooked, canned, frozen, packaged, or changed” as a way to preserve it. Not all processed foods are unhealthy. Bagged spinach, roasted nuts, and pre-cut vegetables are actually considered to be processed. Those who are curious about what other foods and drinks are processed should continue reading.

Why Herbal Tea Is Processed

Packing rosebay willowherb leaves for sale
Yevgeny Sofroneyev/Getty Images
Yevgeny Sofroneyev/Getty Images

Herbal tea comes straight from the earth, so it’s expected to be one of the most natural drinks. However, many herbal tea brands have to be modified before they hit the shelves.

Herbal tea can be made with several substances such as roots, seeds, dried and fresh flowers, and fruit. EcoSalon says that most herbal teas are extremely bitter, so they need to be processed to adjust the flavor. The tea becomes processed when it’s packaged into tea bags.

Granola Bars Are Highly Processed

guy eating a granola bar outside
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Granola bars are considered to be a snack for those who love exploring the great outdoors. Healthline suggests that they are usually a good source of fiber and protein and can be a healthy way to curb your appetite between meals.

These snack bars are highly processed and contain high levels of added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and more, which can have a negative impact on health. While all granola bars are processed, it’s important to pick ones that contain ingredients that are mostly grain, nut, and fruit-based.

Bread Is Made Up Of A Lot Of Processed Ingredients

Sliced white bread
SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images

One of the biggest aisles at the grocery store is the bread aisle. There are several varieties that range from white, whole-grain, rye, and sourdough. All of these breads are processed.

The Iron You states that even in its raw form, bread contains flour, which is lightly processed. Then, industrial bread that people would find at a store includes a lot more processed ingredients such as white sugar, potato flakes, powdered milk, butter, margarine, and more.

How Roasted Nuts Get Rid Of Harmful Bacteria

person holds pistachios in their hand
Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images
Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

According to Pili Pushers, nuts are a big source of protein and healthy fats and they are rich in fiber. Consumers may not know that roasted nuts are processed.

This is because processors and nut growers find it more convenient to fry the nuts in vegetable oil, so they will stay fresh in their packaging. On the bright side, studies have shown that roasting nuts can destroy harmful bacteria such as salmonella and aflatoxins, which are commonly found in raw versions.

Processed Cheese Only Contains Half The Amount Of Cheese

Mixture of cheddar and mozzarella cheese
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Bon Appetit states that processed cheese isn’t 100 percent cheese. It actually is only equivalent to about 50 percent. Processed cheese is real cheese mixed with ingredients such as salt, food dyes, preservatives, extra dairy, and more.

This drastically changes the taste and texture of the cheese and makes it have a longer shelf life. Some cheeses are so processed that they don’t even need to be refrigerated, which makes it easier and cheaper for the consumer, seller, and producer.

Be Careful With Bagged Spinach

Bags of spinach sit on a shelf at a market
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

One of the most minimally processed foods is pre-washed, bagged spinach. It’s still packed with nutrients, but being packaged causes it to be considered a processed food.

Eat By Date says that spinach is high in vitamins A and K and is chock-full of minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium. Buying bagged spinach gives it an extra couple of days of shelf life. Also, even if the bag says the spinach is pre-washed, it’s important to rinse it off because it can carry bacteria including E-coli.

Even Homemade Tortillas Are Processed

corn tortillas against a navy blue background
Stacy Zarin Goldberg/Lisa Cherkasky/Getty Images
Stacy Zarin Goldberg/Lisa Cherkasky/Getty Images

Both homemade and store-bought tortillas are considered to be processed foods, but homemade are significantly less processed. Store-bought tortillas contain chemicals and packaging to give them a longer shelf life.

Homemade tortillas are considered processed because they are not eaten in their raw form. For example, homemade flour tortillas have to be mixed with ingredients such as milled flour, lard, and more. In Guatemala and Mexico, they have three separate colors for their maize dough (white, yellow, and blue).

What To Look For In Applesauce

applesauce in a glass bowl
Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post via Getty Images

According to Happy Herbivore, “Anything that isn’t a whole food is technically processed.” Applesauce is processed because it’s not just a whole apple. It’s mixed with other ingredients including sugar or cinnamon.

Then, store-bought applesauce is packaged into containers to keep it preserved. In order to make sure you’re eating a healthy version of applesauce, look for factors such as the variety of apples used, how the apples were processed, the cooking temperature, and whether the peel was included.

Deli Meat Is Highly Processed

Processed meats are displayed in a grocery store
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Even though deli meat is one of the most processed food items of all-time, some may not think about how processed it actually is. It can be processed by being smoked, fermented, cured, salted, or more.

Processed deli meat is high in sodium. Today found that a two-ounce serving of sliced roasted turkey breast contained almost 600 milligrams of sodium. They also stated that it shouldn’t be eaten by pregnant women because the meat can carry listeriosis.

Pre-Cut Vegetables Have Some Benefits

frozen vegetables with carrots, green beans, and cauliflower
Fred Tanneau/AFP via Getty Images
Fred Tanneau/AFP via Getty Images

Pre-cut vegetables are minimally processed because they are mainly in their raw forms. They become processed after they are packaged. Also, some brands will add other ingredients such as sodium to make them last longer.

These are great for busy people who are on the go or for people who can’t make too many trips to the grocery store. Pre-cut vegetables have a longer shelf life and are still packed with tons of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Milk Needs To Be Processed For Consumers

Scott Dixon drinking a bottle of milk
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Milk is one of the most highly perishable foods in existence, so it needs to be processed in order to be preserved. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, milk has the potential for a large growth of microorganisms.

These are usually bacterial pathogens that can cause spoilage and disease for consumers. The processing lowers the risk of spoilage and food-borne illnesses by days, weeks, and even months. Also, milk processing can help when there is either too much or too little milk to go around.

Why You Should Be Eating The Right Kind Of Cereal

orange, purple, and green cereal in milk
David Streit/Unsplash
David Streit/Unsplash

While some cereals state that they are whole grain or low fat, it doesn’t take away from the fact that they are highly processed. Many have unhealthy ingredients such as refined grains, sugar, and artificial chemicals.

Healthline states that cereal is usually processed by having the grains crushed into a fine flour and cooked. The flour is mixed with sugar and water. Those who eat cereal should look for ones that are high in fiber and low in sugar.

Tofu Is Made From Soybeans

Silk tofu japanese soy cheese whole piece on ceramic plate with chopsticks over wooden table
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Viet World Kitchen says that tofu is processed not only because it’s packaged, but it also involves rendering soy milk from soybeans and water. Then, it’s coagulated to separate the curds and whey.

Once the curds are pressed and molded, it forms the tofu block. When tofu is highly processed, it usually contains more chemicals and has a firmer texture. It’s important for people who suffer from soy allergies to stay away from this soy-laden food.

Tuna Needs To Be Canned To Prevent Bacteria Growth

tins of tuna fish
Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Eat Right says that there are several foods that are processed at their peak in order to keep all their nutritional benefits and freshness. One of those foods is canned tuna.

Tuna has low acidity, which doesn’t get rid of bacteria on its own. It can be sterilized by being kept at a higher temperature when it’s canned. Canned tuna is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, selenium, and vitamin D.

How Olive Oil Is Made

Tuscan bread is topped with fresh olive oil
Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Most olive oils are processed by having the olives crushed into a paste, usually with granite stones. This releases the oil, which becomes mixed into a paste that allows it to develop aromas and flavors.

According to Wine Country Table, “The difference between extra virgin olive oil and regular or ‘pure’ olive oil lies in the process used to extract the oil from the olives.” They went on to say that this effects “both the flavor and smoke point of the oil.”

Frozen Pizza

factory workers inspecting frozen pepperoni pizzas
Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images
Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images

According to Eat Right, frozen pizza is one of the most highly processed foods in existence. This also goes for other frozen, pre-made meals. They are extremely high in calories, sugar, and sodium.

When they are processed, additives such as artificial preservatives, added sugar, and unhealthy fats are included. For example, one serving of a Red Baron Classic Crust Pepperoni frozen pizza contains 810 milligrams of sodium, 380 calories, 18 grams of fat, and eight grams of sugar.

How Ice Cream Stays So Smooth

A cat licks an ice cream cone
Wolfgang Kumm/Getty Images
Wolfgang Kumm/Getty Images

Milk Fats states that ice cream has to contain at least 10 percent milk fat, 20 percent milk solids, sweeteners, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and flavoring materials. All of these combined make ice cream incredibly processed.

The polysaccharide gums in the stabilizers stop the ice cream from hardening and separating into sharp ice crystals. The emulsifiers are used to give the ice cream a smooth and whipped texture. Even homemade ice cream is processed because it is made with several ingredients such as rock salt and milk.

Why Dried Pasta Doesn’t Make People Feel Full

Heap of raw uncooked italian pasta coquillettes over blue wooden plank background
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Healthline found that dried pasta is usually refined during processing by stripping the wheat kernel of the bran and germ, which removes a lot of nutrients. Dried pasta is higher in calories and lower in fiber.

When pasta is refined and processed, people tend to not feel as full as if they had eaten a high-fiber or whole-grain pasta. EcoSalon states that many of these dried pastas are made by industrial flour, which contains large amounts of preservatives.

Tomato Sauce Doesn’t Have Much Nutritional Value

tomato sauce in a bowl with a wooden spoon
Eddy Buttarelli/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Eddy Buttarelli/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Byrdie says that the different levels of food processing can have various effects on the body. The best way to tell if a food is minimally processed is by looking at the ingredient list. The shorter the list, the less processed the food.

Tomato sauce is on the middle of the spectrum of processed foods. The ingredients are added for flavor and texture and don’t necessarily give it a longer shelf life. NDTV states that tomato sauce hardly contains any protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals and is higher in sugar and sodium.

Look Out For These Ingredients In Salad Dressing

Group of prepared bottled salad dressings
Julie Thurston/Getty Images
Julie Thurston/Getty Images

According to Eat This, salad dressing is a processed food with ingredients added for flavor and texture. These usually include sweeteners, spices, oils, food dyes, and preservatives.

Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School wrote that bottled salad dressings are often rich sources of saturated fat, calories, sodium, and added sugar. For example, a serving of Olive Garden Signature Italian dressing has 520 milligrams of sugar and people often use more than the standard serving size of two tablespoons.