Human Chow: My Minimally-Processed Manifesto

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Manifesto:  noun; man·i·fes·to \ˌma-nə-ˈfes-(ˌ)tō\  a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer
Minimal: adjective  min·i·mal  \ˈmi-nə-məl\ :  relating to or being a minimum: as 
a  :  the least possible <a victory won with minimal loss of life>
b  :  barely adequate <a minimal standard of living>
c  :  very small or slight <a minimal interest in art>

You’ve undoubtedly heard people talking about “clean eating”, “real food”, “Whole 30” or “Paleo”.  Even I participated in “October Unprocessed” run by Andrew Wilder of EatingRules.com.   It seems that there’s a lot of rule making going on when it comes to food.  I’ve looked at all of the rules, suggestions, and plans, and I’ve tried a lot of them.  So many rules.  Where am I going with this?  I’ve decided that what works well for me is to primarily eat unprocessed and minimally processed foods.  Here’s what I mean by that.  Unprocessed foods don’t have ingredient lists — an orange is exactly what it is.  Minimally processed means that the food is only 1 or 2 steps from the plant or animal where it originated.  As long as those things make up the majority of what I eat, I’m doing well.

A basic description

First, I’m pretty sure that you all know what processed foods are.  One clue is if it comes in a package and has more than a few ingredients.  I don’t need to tell you that most breakfast cereals, candy bars, sodas, and snack foods are heavily processed.  One thing to look for is anything on the label that you can’t pronounce or looks like it is made in a lab.   If it’s got anything that is hydrogenated or hydrolyzed you know that item has been processed beyond recognition.

A few examples

Many unprocessed or minimally processed food are looked at as ingredients rather than a finished product. But not everything that we look at as a basic ingredient is actually minimally processed.   For example, enriched unbleached flour is a processed food.  Really, it is.  Look at the ingredients on the label and you’ll see that there’s a lot more than just wheat in there.  There’s a host of synthetic vitamins added to replace the nutrients that are lost when the bran and the germ are removed.

Now look at a bag of 100% whole wheat flour.  My favorite for most baking is Bob’s Red Mill 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.  It has 1 ingredient. The name is longer than the ingredient list!  It isn’t whole wheat berries, but the only processing that has been done is to grind it into flour.  In my mind it qualifies as minimally processed.

Things in packages

Minimally processed foods may come in a package but the ingredients are few and all the ingredients are recognizable as food.  One of my favorite foods is peanut butter.  That’s one of the reasons that I could never make it on the Paleo diet!  Look at a jar of a popular brand of peanut butter and suddenly you see that it’s not quite what you might have thought it was.  Hydrogenated oils are not good for humans — there’s more than a little research to prove that.  Compare that to a jar of natural style peanut butter and you’ll see there’s a lot of difference.  The natural style is made completely of food!

I’ve got one last comparison to drive my point home, I hope.   It’s my belief that coffee should be hot and creamy.  For years I used a popular coffee creamer thinking that it was a better choice that half & half.  Boy was I wrong!  Coffee creamer is not food, it’s a solution of chemicals that resembles cream.   It turns out that we now know (or at least the powers that be are finally willing to admit) that the natural fats in dairy products are actually good for us.  So I’m using half & half now because the ingredient list is short and sweet and minimally processed.

So there are the basics about minimally processed foods — my minimally processed manifesto.

Next week we’ll look at some easy ways to move towards a minimally processed way of eating.

Until next week,

Dana

 

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