Why I Eat Unprocessed

This post is part of my series commemorating October Unprocessed, a month-long initiative to commit to eating only unprocessed foods.

A few years ago, I was attending a health talk when I overheard a fellow attendee say to her friend off-handedly, “Oh, I never eat anything from a box.”

When I heard this I thought this lady sounded quite holier-than-thou. “Does she live on Mars?” I wondered.

At that time I thought avoiding packaged foods was impractical and silly. But as I learnt more about the various artificial ingredients commonly found in processed and packaged food and their detrimental effects on our health, I began to understand why this lady had made the commitment to avoid processed food.

Today I’m very conscious about the packaged and processed food I buy. I’m not looking to ‘convert’ anyone into going unprocessed, but food is something I’m really passionate about and I think it’s vital that we eat well. So here’s why I think it’s so important to eat unprocessed food as much as possible.

  1. Most processed, packaged foodstuffs can no longer be considered real food as they’re so far removed from their natural ingredients. Often they’re laced with various additives, artificial flavours and colours, preservatives and flavour enhancers like MSG. Some artificial ingredients and additives are suspected to cause various health issues such as weight gain, digestive problems, and hyperactivity in children to name a few. Personally, I’d rather avoid having questionable ingredients in my food.
  2. If you find reading labels and ingredient lists confusing, it’s actually easier to just avoid processed food altogether as much as possible. A simple way to peace of mind.
  3. We can’t always rely on regulatory agencies to prevent questionable ingredients from appearing in our foodstuffs. Food standards vary across countries and sometimes it can take a long time for a questionable ingredient to be banned or phased out. Instead, it is up to us as consumers to take responsibility for our own well-being, which starts with switching to unprocessed foods.
  4. Unprocessed food tastes better. Yes, it’s not as handy as heating a frozen dinner or opening a foil packet, but once your tastebuds get accustomed to homemade food prepared with wholesome, high-quality ingredients, you’ll naturally never go back to the boxed version.

October Unprocessed 2012

October Unprocessed 2012 Logo

This morning, I posted the following tweet on Twitter:

I think it’s time we re-learn how to prepare food from scratch so we know EXACTLY what’s in it, instead of relying on packaged products.

A few hours later, I saw a tweet by Andrew Wilder of the Eating Rules blog mentioning that 5,000 (yes, 5,000!) people had already signed up for his October Unprocessed challenge.

Now in its third year, October Unprocessed is a challenge to eat only unprocessed food for the entire month.

When I saw this, I knew it was no mere coincidence. The Universe was asking me to walk my talk. Over the past two years, I’d already been switching to foodstuffs that are mostly unprocessed, but I saw the October Unprocessed challenge as an opportunity to really examine consciously what I put into my mouth.

So I signed the pledge and my intention for this month is to prepare my meals using only raw whole-food ingredients and unprocessed foods. I won’t be 100% unprocessed when I eat out as I have no idea of ensuring this, so instead I’ll minimise dining out this month.

So what is ‘unprocessed?’ Andrew’s definition of ‘unprocessed’ is:

“… any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients.”

Andrew goes on to state that here’s no need to make it yourself as long as it can theoretically be made at home.

Now my definition of unprocessed is a bit more hardcore. Unprocessed to me means either a single whole-food ingredient, or a food condiment made wholly with whole-food ingredients, like soy sauce. To me, any foodstuff that comes in a box or packet and factory-made by machine is ‘processed’. In short, home-made from scratch using raw ingredients. However, if I were to use my own definition I’d be unable to use many pantry items I regularly use like tahini, nut butters, soy/almond milk as I currently lack a blender to make it at home.

So Andrew’s definition of unprocessed it is. I’ll be making exceptions for select items like puffed rice cakes, which are nearly impossible to make at home. However, these will have to be made from whole-food ingredients without any artificial or non whole-food ingredients.

If you’d like to join the October Unprocessed challenge, head over to Eating Rules for more information and to sign up. During October I’ll also be posting about what unprocessed means to me, and sharing my tips and experiences in making the switch from processed foodstuffs to unprocessed and whole foods.

And so it begins – why not join us?