Q: What does it mean when AICR says we should choose “minimally processed foods” more often?
A: This advice aims to maximize your consumption of cancer-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals while minimizing unhealthy additions to your diet. “Minimally processed” vegetables, grains and beans are prepared – commercially or at home – without large amounts of added fat, salt or sugar.
This means flavoring your brown rice or whole-wheat couscous with delicious herbs, rather than sodium-laden mixes. Also be sure to use vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and spices to flavor vegetables instead of high-fat or high-sodium sauces. Although AICR most often refers to plant foods when encouraging you to eat more minimally processed foods, avoiding processed meats such as sausage and hot dogs is also good advice. Consuming processed foods on a regular basis increases risk of colon cancer.
Processed food is not all bad: canning and cooking (which is technically a “process”) by steaming, microwaving or stir-frying can make certain nutrients more easily absorbed by the body. The bottom line is to choose plant foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans more often and to look for those foods with little or no added fat, sugar and sodium.