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4 Details About Food Processing That You Need To Know

4 Details About Food Processing That You Need To Know

how processing affects foods

Government guidelines haven’t changed much in the last few years. They continue to miss out on an increasingly important detail in food consumption – what form we consume our food groups in.

To experience abundant health – digestive, energetic and mental, we need knowledge. To nourish ourselves optimally, we need to be aware of how processing affects the quality of foods.

How we consume our foods makes a huge difference to how they support us. Refining can really sabotage valiant efforts towards vibrant health. Such health starts within the digestive system.


How processing affects flour

The refining of foods has become widespread and drives a good dime or two. The methods once used to make flour were fairy time and labour intensive. Albeit a ‘chore’ the flour produced still contains a lot of its key nutrients held within the bran and germ of the grain.

Grains are a staple in diets across many cultures the world over. They are rich in fibre, minerals like potassium, zinc, magnesium, iron and B vitamins. These nutrients are like the workers which keep the cogs of our bodily systems turning.

They regulate immunity, metabolism, brain function…..theres more. All functions which when finely tuned, provide abundant energy and clarity. This enables us to live a high quality of life whilst also boosting longevity.

Most of the bioactive compounds, including fibre lay within the outer layers of the gain. This indicates the importance of using techniques to preserve the whole grain.

Industrially milled flours loose out on these nutrients, especially fibre, protein and fat. Nutrients get reintroduced by fortification but do not behave in the same way as the inherent matrix of nutrients in whole grains. Many product labels neglect to mention this, leading us as consumers astray. 

Willett suggests that the term whole grain be reserved exclusively for intact kernels, which excludes whole grain flours. Logical, as a flour is technically no longer a whole grain.

Although grains such as wheat and barley are difficult to consume as whole grains; oats, rice and quinoa are a few that can be. In order to continue to enjoy good old wheat though, we may have to come to a compromise.

Stone Milling May Just Be That Compromise

Stone milling preserves a greater grain integrity. This traditional milling method preserves a greater spread of nutrients held within the bran and germ. Closer to whole, these feed our gut microbes and strengthen the absorbent potential of our intestines. When these two are strong, we are equipt to draw greater nutrition from our meals.

Some ‘whole grain’ breads are still stripped of minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals through milling. These essential compounds preserve and promote good health.

Fibre is fuel for beneficial gut microbes. They produce Short Chain Fatty Acids from fibre. These preserve the strength of our gut wall. They regulate immunity and facilitate absorption of other nutrients, keeping pathogenic bacteria at bay. Without sufficient fibre and therefore SCFA, we become malnourished and are subject to digestive disorder such as IBS and IBD.

We lose out on essential nutrients when we regularly consume flour products in place of whole kernel grains. Flour products tend to be convenience foods which make them easier to over consume.

If we want sufficient nutrition from grains, we can shift the majority of their consumption to a completely unrefined state. Because flour products don’t carry as much nutrition, supplementing their consumption is wise. A little flour cant hurt, so long as it is good quality.  


This leads nicely onto sugar which has slowly been creeping into our diets to a larger degree. You find sugar in places you would most expect it – sodas, fruit juices, some breads, cakes, biscuits, canned tomatoes, cereals. These are fake foods and most of us know to exclude or limit their consumption.

We all know sugar isn’t great, but how have the damaging qualities of refined sugar framed the way we see naturally occurring sugars?

What about fruits? They contain sugar!

If we eat sugars housed within fruits, such as fructose, it comes neatly packaged amongst other nutrients. This ensures safe passage throughout the body. Fruit fibres and phytonutrients regulate the uptake and distribution of sugars, whilst maintaining homeostasis. Mother nature has smartly bundled these to cue satiety hormones such as leptin and ghrelin. They prompt us to stop eating and enjoy the nourishment they provide.

Refined sugar, when removed from its matrix of nutritional escorts, behaves differently. Sugar is housed within beets, carrots, fruits etc. Without the whole plant constituents, refined sugar confuses the pathways that deal with it.

Regular consumption of refined sugar causes inflammation. This damages tissues, such as those of the intestinal tract. Sugar is a driving factor for inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. In addition to other conditions of inflammation (which happens to be most chronic diseases).

Sugar is a leading cause of leaky gut, where the intestinal lining leaks. You lose out on nutrients, let in infections, larger undigested food particles and inflammatory bacterial products. Refined sugar also confuses our microbes. It stamps out beneficial bacteria and fosters the growth of bad bacteria. This is what sabotages your digestive health, energy, mood and health in general.

Shoot for fruit, ditch the refined stuff. 

Quit sugar by changing your habits.


How processing affects milk

In order to make dairy available to the masses, we have had to treat it in a way which robs it of its benefits. Not only that, but to prevent contamination it is pasteurised which effectively makes it bacterially inert.

Fair play, pasteurisation does stop pathogenic bacteria from polluting the milk, which would make us quite sick. However, the myriad of beneficial bacteria present in milk are also gone. Without supportive microbes we miss out on the opportunity to enhance our digestive health. This is the gateway to emanating health throughout the rest of the body and its systems.

Commercially available milk is commonly treated with antibiotics. These make their way into our bodies through the consumption of said dairy. This is another blow to the microbiome, the community of microbes we house within our intestinal tract. Antibiotics deplete our numbers of beneficial bacteria. These provide us immune protection and make neurotransmitters which keep us mentally balanced. Additionally, they provide a physical layer of protection against infections.

Most local, small scale dairy farmers do not pasteurise their milk. If handled and preserved attentively, it is unlikely to harbour harmful bacteria but will still contain the good guys!

Processed Meat

How processing affects cured meat

Additives are the line where meats like pork cross over from natural to processed. Bacon is a classic example. The hysteria around bacon causing cancer could be down to no more than the shit thats added to it. Would you expect a free range pork chop to do the same? Then why is bacon any different. Bacon was traditionally preserved with salt. Today bacon gets treated with nitrites, a probable carcinogen.

An association between ingested Nitrites and gastrointestinal cancers has been noted. If there is any indication of this type of problem with a food additive, wouldnt it be best to err on the side of caution until we know for sure?

Nitrites are found in plants and can actually be beneficial when consumed as such. But, when nitrates are applied to meats they follow a different pathway.

Nitrates from plants have notable health benefits on cardiac function, vasodilatation and blood pressure. Nitrate which forms Nitric Oxide (NO2) from beetroot markedly increases exercise endurance from this effect.

When applied to meat, nitrates can actually form N-nitroso compounds (NOS) instead of nitric oxide. The presence of fat actually promotes the formation of NOS, which there is a lot of in meats, and few vegetable sources. In addition, vitamin C offsets the formation of NOS.

Therefore, the presence of other compounds alongside Nitrites in food, such as antioxidants found in plants could strongly influence the way Nitrites behave in the body. This could explain the health differences seen in the consumption of Nitrate/Nitrites from plants and those from processed meats.

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