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Not All Processed Foods Are Bad - 10 Healthy Options

 Processed foods have earned a bad rep, often rightly so, as most of them are loaded with sugar, sodium, and fat. Foods that are processed are usually canned, frozen, packaged, dried, baked, or pasteurized. Items like cereal, bread, cheese, cookies, potato chips, and pasta are just a few examples of processed foods. Various additives and preservatives are added to most of these popular processed foods, making them an unhealthy choice for regular consumption.
But are all processed foods unhealthy? Not at all! Many processed foods are actually minimally processed and have a place in your daily diet. When purchasing processed foods, the key is to read the label properly. Packaged snacks and convenience foods made with generous amounts of sugar, salt, and preservatives instead of proper food-based ingredients should be avoided.
But if you look closely, you can also find some wonderfully nutritious packaged foods in your local grocery store. Here are 10 nutritionist-backed options that might just work for you.

1. Yogurt

Healthy Processed Foods,  Yogurt
Yogurt has been consumed by humans for ages. It is a staple food in many cultures and a terrific source of lean protein, Vitamin B12, calcium, and probiotics. While homemade yogurt is always the better option, it can also be found in a variety of forms at the grocery store. Many brands add sugar and other sweeteners to their yogurt. It's best to avoid all artificially-flavored yogurts and look for the plain one at the grocery store instead.
Read the label on the back of the package and choose the yogurt with the least amount of added ingredients. The label must include milk and the bacterial cultures used to turn milk into yogurt. Also, avoid yogurts that have any added sugar in their ingredients list. Look for low-fat yogurt or one with moderate protein. Unsweetened yogurts are also good.

2. Chia Seeds

Healthy Processed Foods,  Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are widely regarded as one of the healthiest foods out there. They’re chockablock with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and various micronutrients. These little seeds abound with antioxidants and contain about 14% of protein.
Few people realize that chia seeds require post-processing to separate the seeds from other parts of the plants. The seeds are then cleaned, dried, and pass through quality control. Even though they undergo a lot of processing steps, they are safe and healthy to consume. You can include them in your diet in a variety of ways. Add them to your smoothies or porridge, or simply soak 1/4 cup (40 grams) of chia seeds in 4 cups (1 liter) of water for 30 minutes, and drink the resulting mixture.

3. Canned Chickpeas

Healthy Processed Foods, Canned Chickpeas
Not all canned food products are bad for your health. Take canned chickpeas or beans, for example. Yes, they are often full of salt that helps preserve them. However, this can be managed once you wash the beans with water for a few minutes before consuming them. Nutritionists say that rinsing the beans thoroughly can cut down their sodium content by almost 40%.
Canned chickpeas and beans can be your savior on nights when you are not in the mood to cook. Just make sure that you purchase the low-sodium variety. They are a wonderful source of ready-to-eat protein and also contain soluble fiber, iron, and resistant starch. When looking for a quick meal, this low-fat plant-based protein food can be tossed in a salad, added to a soup, or blended into hummus.

4. Matcha Green Tea Powder

Healthy Processed Foods,  Matcha Green Tea Powder
You might have heard about matcha tea in recent years. The popular Japanese powdered tea is basically green tea leaves ground up into a fine powder. So, even though it is processed, you will be enjoying the benefits from the entire leaf. Matcha is full of antioxidants called catechins, which are believed to have cancer-fighting properties. Also, like all green tea, matcha is great for focus and memory. Further, a study published in the journal of Current Pharmaceutical Design found that phytochemicals like L-theanine and caffeine found in matcha help improve one's mood and cognitive performance.
These days, good quality match powder can be easily found at your local grocery store. You can use it to brew tea, make a matcha latte, or add it to your smoothies.

5. Frozen Veggies

Healthy Processed Foods,  Frozen Veggies
Frozen vegetables are an inexpensive and handy alternative to having fresh vegetables when you don’t have some readily available. The good thing about frozen veggies, such as bagged spinach or peas, is that they are minimally processed. At the same time, they are quite convenient because they are available year-round. Moreover, frozen vegetables generally retain most of their nutrients during the processing, as they are frozen immediately after harvesting. In fact, a 2016 study showed that freezing vegetables for up to 2 months didn’t greatly change their phytochemical content.
Another great benefit of having frozen vegetables is that they can be prepared easily. Just add few tablespoons of water to a bowl of frozen veggies and microwave them in 90-second intervals. Keep in mind that some types of frozen veggies may contain added sugar, salt, or sauces. So, check the label thoroughly before buying.

6. Unsweetened Almond Milk

Healthy Processed Foods,  Unsweetened Almond Milk
Unsweetened almond milk, as you may gauge from its name, is naturally low in sugar. It’s also high in vitamin E and dairy-free, making it a great option for those with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance.
To make this milk, almonds and water are blended and then strained to remove the pulp. However, many commercial almond milk brands tend to add preservatives and flavorings to improve the overall taste and texture of the product. So, look for an unsweetened almond milk carton that only includes the nut and filtered water. Any added ingredients are unnecessary.

7. Sugar-Free Organic Jams

Healthy Processed Foods, Sugar-Free Organic Jams
Most jams and jellies available at the grocery store are full of sugar. Therefore, these are not healthy options for regular consumption. However, experts suggest that sugar-free organic jams and jellies are a great healthy alternative to those who can’t have their morning toast without a little spread of jam.
Since their processing doesn’t involve any kind of extra sugar, organic jams are a perfectly safe, tasty, and healthy choice. Furthermore, organic jams are made with fruits that have no trace of pesticides or herbicides.

8. Canned Pumpkin Puree

Healthy Processed Foods, Canned Pumpkin Puree
Another canned food product you can add to your shopping list is pumpkin puree. Pumpkin is naturally harvested during the fall season, but canned pumpkin puree is available at grocery stores throughout the year. But is it healthy?
A cup of canned pumpkin provides 7.1 grams of dietary fiber, along with iron and vitamin A. Canned pumpkin is also high in potassium and low in sodium. It is also low in carbohydrates, sugar, and fat.
You can add canned pumpkin to pancakes, yogurts, oatmeal, and soups, thereby increasing their nutritional value. When looking for a can of pumpkin puree at the grocery store, make sure that you choose the one labeled "Organic Pumpkin" or "100% Pure Pumpkin." Otherwise, you could end up buying canned pumpkin pie mix that is packed with sugar.

9. Tofu

Healthy Processed Foods, Tofu
Tofu is made from dried soybeans and is a great source of plant-based protein. It is also rich in fiber, carbs, manganese, and calcium. Commercially sold tofu is minimally processed and is safe to consume. In fact, tofu is a very filling and satisfying food. You can try tofu as an alternative for scrambled eggs in the morning or crisp it up as an evening snack. You can even add it to your soup or salad.
When you are shopping for tofu, check the ingredient label carefully. It must include calcium sulfate (gypsum), magnesium chloride (nigari), and delta gluconolactone (GDL). Avoid the ones that have added preservatives.

10. Dark Chocolate

Healthy Processed Foods, Dark Chocolate
Yes, you can indulge yourself in a bar of dark chocolate from time to time without feeling guilty about it. It’s loaded with nutrients like fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese, and it's an amazing source of antioxidants. Studies have also shown that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Choose a bar of dark chocolate with at least 70–85% cocoa to gain the best health benefits. Keep in mind, though, that a high percentage of cocoa solids will also mean a more bitter flavor.
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