Food Processing Can Save Lives: How Bioactive Compounds Defy Oversimplification
In many instances, the term processed foods is used interchangeably with ultra-processed foods (UPF), which may lead to the former group being mistakenly perceived as unhealthy. In reality, the term food processing encompasses a range of treatments and operations aimed at ensuring food safety, preservation, and availability. Bioactive compounds found in raw foods can be used to examine the complex nature of processing. Factors such as processing type (e.g., thermal treatments, non-conventional processes) and operational conditions (e.g., temperature, pressure) significantly affect the final product and can either increase the levels and bioavailability of bioactives or diminish their concentration leading to reduced functional properties. Criticism directed toward UPFs should not overshadow the boundaries separating them from healthy and nutritive processed foods. Food processing continues to be a tool to produce foods that are stable and free from microbiological and physicochemical hazards, ensuring their availability in underserved areas of the world.