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Processed, Raw and Probiotic Foods

Most of our foods are processed even if only a little. Cooking is processing. Preservation is processing. Fermentation is processing. Just cutting food is technically processing. There are those who have gone all the way to a raw food diet. What they really mean is just food that is not cooked. However, even raw food is processed in other ways. So, we should be careful to resist food processing and perhaps concern ourselves with what processed food means.

I think the key to identifying foods that fall into what we call processed food is really about food that becomes sanitized food. Food that falls into this category is sanitized in at least two ways. It is primarily rid of any bacteria that may live on it, whether that bacteria is helpful or hurtful. It is also sanitized of complex flavor that some raw foods or even other processed foods maintain. I often see hot dogs that seems quite homogenized compared to butcher shop sausages that show intermixed textures of animal tissue and flavorings.

In contrast, food that is processed with care can have greater color, flavor and complexity that turns eating into savoring. Fine dining exemplifies this type of process. It combines all aspects of food. It creates with orchestrated flavors. It creates with interwoven textures. Even the way the food is put on the plate becomes part of the experience as colors of food can be combined to form an appetizing landscape. It is processed to help us open up to the nature of the food and bring out particular qualities.

Raw foods have their helpful sides but also some drawbacks. Raw foods maintain maximum nutrition, which is one of their main benefits. Also, there is nothing eliminated from it, so whenever you eat it, you consume every bit of its raw character. If it has a little bitter in it, like many vegetables, then you taste that. If it has sour and sweet together, like many fruits, you taste both simultaneously. Nothing of its main character is altered, except perhaps its shape through cutting. Lastly, raw foods can be tough to digest, which is one of its drawbacks. However, in general, it doesn’t seem as though rawness is especially problematic. Also, raw foods tend to be fruits and vegetables. They do not typically include meat, dairy, grains or legumes. Spices may be consumed raw, but not typically as a main source of food (at least in my experience).

Probiotic foods are processed foods, but they are foods processed by helpful bacteria. There’s been quite a bit of new research published lately exposing the benefits of probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh and many others. Just look up probiotic food online, and you will find a lot of reading in your search results. One benefit is that the bacteria break down the foods to expose nutrients. This helps us get more out of the food with less effort. Another benefit is that the bacteria can live in our guts and continue to help us break down foods, so our bodies don’t have to work as hard to digest food. It’s worth reading more about these and other benefits. At our home, we have learned how to make fermented salsa, kefir based salad dressing and fermented base barbecue sauce. We eat these regularly as well as drink kombucha and flavored kefir water. Personally, I think it has helped my overall health.

If you are truly interested in this topic, consider looking up as much as possible about all three types of foods. Do your own research and pay close attention to how all three foods help or hinder your health. Pay attention to your digestion as you consume each kind of food. Notice your energy levels when you eat each kind of food. Make informed decisions about what feels good to your body. I hope I’ve given you enough to get started on your own food research.

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