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Natural or Processed Foods?

Por Eleazar Lara-Pantin, MD, MSc.* -

Among the many questions received every day, there are always some related to the endless advantages of eating natural products and the risks linked to eating processed foods. None of these two ideas are absolute truths. I will try to explain why.

Food in its natural state

It is true that eating foods in their natural state has enormous advantages. I would even go as far as saying that it is better to do so. But this is valid only for foods that are still fresh. There must not be too much time between harvest and consumption, and there must be proper handling of the food between the farm and the market. Such foods allow us to reap the benefits of all the nutrients and fiber they contain. Their appearance and color contribute to the pleasant image that any good food must have.

Processed foods

Industrial processing represents the best way to preserve most of the nutritional value of foods. Without the food industry, it would be impossible to have products that are not harvested year round. Due to their natural evolution, they would rot over time, lose nutritional value, and become a health hazard.

Which should I buy?

Every type of food has its advantages and disadvantages. Natural products, if correctly grown and eaten fresh, should always be the first option. However, processed foods are a complement that enables us to have those foods that cannot be obtained in their fresh state and provides the variety that guarantees the availability of all nutrients.

Like everything in life, before deciding whether something is good or bad, weigh the positive and negative aspects. To obtain the great benefits it can provide, opt for fresh food if it is of good quality and available in sufficient amounts. Processed foods are sometimes the better, and many times the only, option for us when we can’t have the food in its original state, as it comes from the farm.

For example, is the peanut butter we grind at the supermarket better than the pre-packaged one? If they are good quality peanuts that we are going to grind, and the grinding machine is properly cleaned several times throughout the day in the supermarket, then that peanut butter will have the advantage of being fresh and of having no preservatives. However, we should only grind the amount we will be able to eat before it goes bad. If these elements are not guaranteed, then the best option is undoubtedly the industrially processed peanut butter, which takes care of each of the factors we mentioned above.


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