How healthy are in­stant foods?

Jamaica Gleaner - - CLASSIFIEDS -

A NUM­BER of prod­ucts, touted as ‘in­stant foods’ or ‘con­ve­nience foods’, have been in­tro­duced to our mar­ket over the past few years. This is prob­a­bly due to the ‘in­stant cul­ture’ that we have de­vel­oped, plus the lim­ited per­sonal time that we have in our packed sched­ules.

We, there­fore, have lim­ited time to cook and to teach our chil­dren to cook. But are we sac­ri­fic­ing our health in the process?

Con­ve­nience foods re­quire lim­ited prepa­ra­tion, such as frozen and tinned foods that re­quire just heat­ing (such as in a mi­crowave), and noo­dles, porridge and rice, which re­quire just adding hot wa­ter. Some of these foods fa­cil­i­tate our mo­bil­ity in that you can lit­er­ally have them on the go, thus fit­ting into our fast-paced lives.

There is a say­ing that let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food. Hav­ing proper well-bal­anced meals can lit­er­ally help to cure and pre­vent cer­tain ail­ments. Many chronic dis­eases and can­cers are re­lated to our life­style (life­style dis­eases).


Our foods should con­tain com­po­nents that should as­sist the body in ward­ing off these con­di­tions, and con­ve­nience foods gen­er­ally don’t. In or­der to pre­vent spoilage, they are usu­ally pre­served with salt, sugar and/or other preser­va­tives.

Now, preser­va­tives con­serve the food, but they cer­tainly don’t pre­serve us! Another as­pect of pre­serv­ing them in­volves pro­cesses that re­move nu­tri­ents that will at­tract mi­crobes which cause spoilage. Un­for­tu­nately, we also need those nu­tri­ents! So, we are eat­ing what the germs refuse!

We know that food should ide­ally be pre­pared just be­fore con­sump­tion. Over time, food spoils (germs take over) and they also lose nu­tri­tional value. It is also best that food be con­sumed as close as pos­si­ble to where they are grown. This is, how­ever, of­ten im­prac­ti­cal as foods are of­ten con­sumed in coun­tries where they are not pro­duced, but as much as pos­si­ble this should be prac­tised.

Another down­fall of con­ve­nience foods is that they tend to pri­ori­tise taste, so they are of­ten laden with sat­u­rated fats and sugar and low in fi­bre. This does not spell well for heart health at all. Some pro­duc­ers have seem­ingly health­ier al­ter­na­tives like ‘low-fat’, ‘no choles­terol’, etc, but the process to achieve this might lead to re­duc­tion in nu­tri­tional value as well.

What we should do is make the health­i­est choice we have avail­able and limit the con­sump­tion of in­stant foods to ‘emer­gency’ sit­u­a­tions and not ‘live’ on them.

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