How much processing of foods are good. Should we never cook food? What about buying frozen meals? There are many questions about food that we need to examine. We will see that moderately processing food is the way to go.
Some years ago, I read a book about fire and cooking food. The premise was that somewhen about the time of Homo Erectus mankind started cooking food and it changed him physically. For comparison, look at gorillas. They have a diet of raw vegetables and have a huge gut so their intestines have time to process the raw food. People who go on a raw food diet get only a small portion of the calories of the food they eat, because our intestines are too short. The theory in the book on fire was that the new technology (fire) caused or enabled man to change from the big bellied creature into ta small bellied one (comparatively.) As a result, men can’t live on a diet of unprocessed foods only.
There is an opposite problem. When we eat highly processed foods, we absorb all the nutrition early in the intestinal system. What then happens is the gut bacteria changes. The normal lower intestine good bacteria relies on the slower to digest food making it to them for them to flourish. When the food is absorbed too quickly, those bacteria die back, making room for other more harmful bacteria to dominate. When that happens, they can cause diverse forms of inflammatory disease. What occurs depends on what balance of unhealthy bacteria are specific to that person.
As a result, we need to eat a combination of cooked and uncooked foods. The cooked foods need to still be high in fiber. When we break food down to its components like sugar, oil, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates, we can and do make foods out of the components. These are called ultraprocessed foods. Despite the presence of fiber, these foods are missing components that are found in lightly processed foods, components whose health benefits are poorly known or totally unknown, but seem to be valuable. Thus since highly processed foods are quickly digested and lead to the inflammatory diseases I don’t recommed them. I also don’t recommend adding fiber or buying processed food with added fiber to slow down digestion since it is missing the little understood components. Just eat the lightly processed foods that are naturally high in fiber.
Over processing can occur in a number of ways. One way that I have seen recommended in some Mediterranean cookbooks is getting your fruit from fruit juice. Fruit juice is generally made by squeezing the fruit and collecting the resulting juice. This has separated the juice from the fiber. The high sugar juice is quickly absorbed and can cause blood sugar spikes, dangerous to our circulatory system. Even worse is the juice that has been watered down and stretched by adding sugars.
Another way is over refining foods. A wheat kernal is a tough seed. If we ate it, we would only get a small percent of the nutritional value. When we grind up the whole kernal, we get whole wheat flour. Cooking it into flour give whole wheat bread. This is slightly refined and sufficiently slow to digest. If instead, we take certain parts out, we get white flour, too easy to digest and leading to the problems. There are many types of processing, such as pressing, cooking, milling, grinding, bleaching, and fermenting. Any one of these can be good, but beware of over processing, especially when you aren’t getting the whole food.
Take a common breakfast of mine, cooked 100% whole wheat toast, ground almond butter spread on top, with sliced fruit on top of the almond butter. Each food starts with the whole food, each is processed in a different way, but lightly processed so I get the nutrition in a slow to digest package.
When you start on a diet like this, your gut biome will not be the good bacteria, and your system might be a little funny at first. As the beneficial bacteria return, the system settles down. We are just learning many new things about the gut and its bacteria. Some even call the gut “the second brain.” In conclusion, if you feed your gut the right food, it will benefit your mental clarity and your mood I can’t stress strongly enough, Minimize Overprocessed Food!