The physical temple: Processed Foods

Compiling a list of calorie dense food is disheartening. Some of our favourites are prominently mentioned and high ranking. Yet like in all things in which we need to improve, some bravery is called for and the acquisition of knowledge on nutrition is no exception.

In the previous article we promised to look at an extensive list of high-calorie dense foods, as well as one on low-calorie dense foods, to help us in for example meal sequencing. So here we go.

Examples of foods with a high caloric density

– Peanut butter
– Chocolate
– Cheese
– Pasta
– Chocolate nut spread
– Salad dressing
– Olive oil (fats & oils)
– Bacon
– Lard
– Dried fruit & fruit juices
– Sausage
– Potato salad
– Tahini
– Muesli/granola
– Honey
– Trail mix
– Potato chips
– Mayonnaise
– Coconut milk
– Cookies
– Pastries
– Cake
– Ice cream (sorry…)
– Agave nectar
– Pizza
– Candy bars
– Vegetable oil (produced commercially)
– Margarine
– Ketchup
– BBQ sauce

Examples of foods with a low caloric density

– Tomatoes
– Chicken breast
– Broccoli
– Cabbage
– Strawberries
– Flounder fish
– Asparagus
– Cauliflower
– Starfruit
– Radish

As I am sure you notice, the foods in the first list have gone through more extensive processing, than those in the second list. Now this is not to say that the processing of food is always a bad thing. Our Lord has given us the creativity and the ability to prepare wonderful food, but there are limits to the (nutritional) benefits of this. These limits are fairly easy to recognize when you learn to look for them.

At this point you might say; Hold on now. In the previous article you said that unnaturally high caloric dense foods are not aligned with our body’s calorie measuring system. You said that we end up with these unnaturally high caloric dense food through processing. And now you turn around and say that processing isn’t bad. Make up your mind man!

The nature of food processing

I assure you that I am not playing semantic tricks on you and that I will explain immediately. The practice of food processing, like many other things in life, is not by itself bad. The truth is that a lot of basic preparation of our food constitutes processing. Even the chicken breast which stands second on the abovementioned list of low caloric dense food is by definition a result of processing a chicken.

Now I am not a proponent of the stance that if something is in the Bible, it is by design good, but I hope we can agree “the Good Book” is a divine source of reference. Going back to the account of the Israelites during their time in the desert, we come across Manna. Manna is something which has been examined in another article on this blog before.

Manna is a quintessential example of (divinely) processed food. It is specifically tailored to be able to sustain the Israelites without any additions. The nutrients it consisted of were processed in such a way that it was the perfect food for the Israelites at the time.

The question that this leaves us with is; what determines whether a processed food is a healthy nutritional option for us? Apparently, processing in itself is not a good determining factor.

Intention or motive

Let us take a step back and look at the reasons why we process food. They span from the most practical to the very elaborate.
– Increasing basic edibility and safety
– Increasing shelf life
– Increasing ease of transport
– Decreasing cost of transport
– Increasing marketability

None of the above are intrinsically nefarious in nature. We can all agree on the convenience of food which is cut into bite sized pieces, cooked, so that we can store it for a longer amount of time, bring it with us when we travel, weighs less so that it cost less energy to carry it and is easier to sell when we have a surplus.

The thing is that there is a discrepancy between the needs and motives of the producers and those of the consumer. What is good/convenient for the producer might not be good for the health of the consumer and we need to recognize this. If we can be aware that the processing of food can have conflicting results for different parties, we start to get to the core answer to the question we began with.

Choose your own motive

We can determine which processed foods are a good nutritional/healthy option, by ascertaining whether the motive behind its processing is in line with our health as consumers.

Manna was edible, safe and had a high nutritional value, but had a poor shelf life and was probably not very marketable. The motives behind what was processed to prepare it was purely based on the immediate nutritional need of its consumers. Nothing more.

So every time you are about to buy or consume processed food, take a moment to ask yourself these question; (1) what is this made of in its most unprocessed form? (2)What was the predominant intent or motivation of the processing? (3) Was this predominant intent or motive in line with my health or my healthy nutritional requirements?

Armed with these answers, the construction of an optimal meal sequence becomes possible. The most advisable sequence is the one starting with nearly non-processed food, followed by food which you have processed yourself keeping your own health in mind and lastly commercially processed food which at least doesn’t disregard your health.

One thought on “The physical temple: Processed Foods

  1. Ah yes. All the comforting foods that taste good are on the high-calorie density list. I think you missed one important reason for some of our most heavily-processed foods. We have become addicted to convenience and don’t take time to count the costs. I suppose most people would be surprised to find such detailed advice on an explicitly Christian blog, but nothing is outside the scope of God’s interest. Your readers might find some of these posts useful:

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