Can Processed Foods Be Healthy?

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“Good Source of 6 Vitamins & Minerals”

In the 1940s processed foods began their rise to prominence in the American diet. Foods that used to be too expensive for the average consumer suddenly became readily available to them. Although Americans were better able to feed themselves, rates of malnutrition and other new illnesses began to rise. To combat this, producers started supplementing their nutrient stripped foods with added vitamins and minerals. Soon a new production ideology began that in order for consumers to be healthy, producers just need to add more “good stuff” into food. This approach to production has continued since: walking through grocery isles today there are pastas with added omega 3, Cheerios that can lower cholesterol, and Pop Tarts that offer a “good source of vitamins and minerals.”

Adding all these beneficial nutrients into processed foods would ideally make Americans one of the healthiest populations around the world. Well it turns out, this is not the case. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control, more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults are obese, and “Obesity-related conditions [including] heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, are some of the leading causes of preventable death.” This data calls into question the effectiveness of the adding extra nutrition into processed foods. If omega 3 is good for the heart, why is heart disease a leading cause of preventable death? Is the solution to simply eat a bowl of Cheerios every morning? Or will change require a shift in the American diet away from these relatively new foods? The statistics show that obesity is a rising problem in the United States, and is becoming increasingly costly to taxpayers. Americans will need to reconsider the healthiness of processed foods if there is any hope of slowing the trends.

1 thought on “Can Processed Foods Be Healthy?

  1. Sara McCullom

    I found this post very interesting and thought provoking. As someone who grew up middle class with privilege and parents who know pretty well how to ‘eat healthy’ or what it means to eat healthy, I was never swayed by advertising that says, for example, that pop tarts are a good source of vitamins and minerals like you mentioned. However, tons of Americans grow up with less educated parents who might pick that out for their kid for breakfast, making the choice because it’s easy, convenient, and apparently, according to Kellog’s, somewhat healthy. This takes me back to Carolan’s writing on hunger, malnutrition, and obesity. When Kellog’s markets something like poptarts as healthy, less educated people will turn to it instead of the whole foods they should be eating. In chapter 4 “Cheap food, hunger, and obesity” of The Real Cost of Cheap Food, Carolan talks about how our society suffers from something he calls “hidden hunger”. Because of our dietary choices and the choices made by food companies, many people are under nourished. He even mentions that the way our foods are processed makes it lose nutrients. Like you said, American’s are not even close to being the healthiest country. Overall, I agree with Carolan and you and I think you are right to question processed foods and how healthy they really are.


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