Is processed food good or bad for health? The answer to this question depends on the nature of the processing. Even before we begin answering this question there is another related question that begs an answer. Why do we need to process food at all?
Food processing has been going on since the beginning of time. Earlier man would dry the food naturally collected from the wild for consumption during periods when food availability was scarce. Food was dried in the sun, then latter fire was used, followed by baking, slow heating, pickling the food in oils, adding ingredients to extend the life of food, etc.,
Processing in the forms described above does lead to loss of nutritional value of food but is an essential innovation created by humans to extend the shelf life of food. If we can access natural unprocessed food, we are able to secure for ourselves, all the nutritional benefits provided by nature to that food.
As we acquired more knowledge on the nutritional needs of humans we found that the human body needs not just carbohydrates, proteins, and fats but minerals, vitamins, and trace elements. Some of these were not available in some types of foods. For instance, Vitamin B12, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids are either not available from plant-based sources or their bioavailability was poor.
This and the need to overcome nutritional deficiencies gave birth to supplements and fortification of foods. Many of us, who have older people in our families or have friends convalescing from a disease are advised to take nutritional supplements and fortified foods. There is a large segment of the food industry that has been built towards fulfilling this need.
Food processing is a vast, and multifaceted area critical to human health. It is a great innovation by man. To unravel the mysteries of food and nutrition, I would recommend that we should begin with the fundamentals of nutrition and explore each sub-segment step by step.
To know about facts on nutrition and organic food you can check here. For processed food, there are multiple books available on the subject.