Processed Foods: To eat or not to eat

Two weeks ago, it was all over the press about the results of French studies in the British Medical Journal of 105000 mostly middle-aged women suggesting that there is a link between eating ultra-processed foods and cancer. As usual I was driving on the M25 motorway when I heard this and I just rolled my eyes.  Where has everyone been? Why is this now big news? Why is it even news? Anyone who is vaguely interested in food as medicine would have known that processed food is dead food. I am not sure why the study was predominantly made up of middle aged women about anything about women’s issues makes me pay attention and the last time I checked, I am allegedly middle aged. I am not sure when that happened, that ageing that is but anyway, I paid attention to this report because it affected me.

We can’t all be growing our own vegetables and basically be eating veg patch to table foods as some of us have to work for a living but, we can make the time to at least ensure that most of our food is not processed. As usual with everything, the 80:20 rule helps. Make sure 80% of your food is not processed and you will be winning. If one meal has to be processed because you are stuck in the middle of nowhere and your only option is a greasy spoon where even the mushrooms are coming out of tin, then at least make sure your other meals of the day are wholefoods. For those who are not sure what is being called processed foods, below is the list:


  • Mass-produced packaged breads and buns
  • Sweet or savoury packaged snacks including crisps
  • Chocolate bars and sweets
  • Sodas and sweetened drinks
  • Meatballs, poultry and fish nuggets
  • Instant noodles and soups
  • Frozen or shelf-life ready meals
  • Foods made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats


I can honestly say apart from breads which I buy wholemeal and seeded, the above list does not feature in my diet and it is not because I am a good too shoes, it is because I focus on having a whole foods diet and avoid sugar whenever I can. The only processing is done by me. I went on whole foods diet for other reasons which I are outline in my book but guess what, now it looks like I am minimising my risk of cancer well, isn’t that a bonus!

My whole philosophy about food is to eat for health. If you eat for health, you will avoid all sorts of diseases, not just cancer and believe it or not, you will lose weight as well. I have known instinctively that eating wholefoods was a defensive way of eating. It helps that the popular media has now caught on and now thank God there is research with figures and charts. For those of you with a scientific bent, here is the link to the British Medical Journal publication of the research:

My kids feel I go out of my way to feed them weird stuff, weird = wholefoods in their case. My reply to them is that they will thank me when they are middle aged. I might not be around when they are middle aged to witness their gratitude but at least I know I will have done my bit. Now all what they have to is to stay out of the way of an oncoming bus!