Processed food is a food item that has been altered in some way from its original form. A can of stewed tomatoes is processed from whole tomatoes. Processed foods also have other ingredients added to them.
Most modern food is processed in some way to make it last longer or make it more appealing to consumers. There is a general belief that eating too many processed foods leads to poor health. However, it is nearly impossible to eat only unprocessed food. According to the U.S. News & World Report, some processed foods aren't bad as long as they are only minimally to moderately processed.
Minimally processed foods are still very close to their original form and only have a few natural, easy to recognize ingredients added. For instance, some canned vegetables are minimally processed by cooking and canning them. The simplest canned goods usually only have a small amount of salt added. Moderately processed foods include breads, crackers and cookies with fewer than five ingredients. Yogurt, cheese, milk, chocolate, hamburger patties and even frozen French fries include some of the other moderately processed food items. The key is finding foods that have a minimal number of ingredients, have recognizable ingredients and are low in sugar, as least compared to other similar brands.
Highly processed foods, such as junk foods, contain a lot of different ingredients, chemicals, have a lot of sugars and are usually not very similar to their original form. Brightly dyed cereals and soda drinks include some of the highly processed foods.