Is all food processing bad?

Food is processed for many reasons; primarily to make it safe to eat, give it a longer shelf life, and make nutrients more available.

Although it is true that food processing can involve the addition of some things that aren’t so good for our health (like salt), other forms of processing can actually be beneficial.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the most volatile vitamins, meaning it is easily damaged (the molecule changes shape) or lost from foods during processing and cooking.

It is most commonly found in fresh fruit and vegetables, so when you are cooking try to steam your veg, as vitamin C can be lost into the cooking water when you boil vegetables.

Freezing fresh fruit and veg denatures the enzyme which breaks down vitamin C, so these will still contain a good amount of vitamin C.


Salt (also called sodium chloride) is added as a preservative and flavour enhancer. We do need a certain amount of sodium in our diet, but it is easy to have too much in our diet – mainly coming from salt. A diet high in salt has been associated with high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart attack and kidney disease. SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) recommends that adults consume no more than 6g of salt per day. As a reference, a 30g packet of Lightly Salted Kettle Chips contains 0.3g of salt. Sometimes sodium is recorded on the back of packets. An easy way to convert this to grams of salt is to times grams of sodium by 2.5.

Mineral content of wheat

Milling wheat to produce flour removes the outer layer of the grain where a large amount of the iron, zinc and selenium content of the grain is found. However, phytate is also removed with this outer layer. Phytate is a storage molecule found in plants, but it can inhibit the absorption of some minerals – mainly iron, zinc and selenium. So, the overall amount of minerals that our bodies can absorb increases when wheat is milled.

Most commercial bread and breakfast cereals are also fortified with may minerals, so will contribute a good amount to your diet.


Calcium is another mineral that can be made more available by processing food. The bones of tinned fish can be eaten as they are soft. This is a very rich source of calcium.

Calcium is also added to many fortified dairy products and dairy free alternatives such as soya milk.


Tips for the party season

Christmas is so close now! I’m sure many of you are already in the full swing of parties and gatherings, but I thought I would still post a few little healthy tips for the party season.

Keep eating your 5-a-day

Even though there are so many festive treats around at the moment, try to still eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Maybe try having a couple of portions with breakfast (e.g.: a banana and berries on your cereal) and aim for at least a third of your plate to be covered in veggies. As long as they are not covered in a lot of butter, all vegetables count towards your 5-a-day.


With all the delicious foodie bits, it can be easy to over-indulge, but remember that certain snacks can be healthy and filling:

  • Unsalted nuts, plain popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon, and fresh veggies with low fat dips are good ideas for party nibbles.
  • Satsumas are a fantastic source of vitamin C (as are other citrus fruit), and are in season this time of year so are really sweet and juicy! Keep a bowl of them in the kitchen – and don’t forget one for the bottom of your stocking!
  • Dried fruit such as dates and apricots contain fibre which helps your digestive system, and count as a portion of fruit.


Remember the drinks

Don’t forget that alcohol has calories in too. Maybe alternate your drinks on a night out for one alcoholic drink then one soft drink or water. If you are drinking soft drinks, try drinking lower sugar varieties, or try sparkling water infused with fruit. Don’t forget to ask for a jug of water for the table if you are eating out – it will stop you drinking alcohol when you’re thirsty.

Get enough sleep

This time of year, can feel particularly busy with work parties, drinks with friends and family dinners. Try to keep to a fairly regular sleep pattern if possible as lack of sleep can affect your mood and concentration as well as potentially causing you to overeat the next day. If you know you will be having a late one, maybe try to have a 30-minute nap during the day at some point. This has shown to be the optimal length of nap time to increase concentration and productivity (1).

Keep active

Maybe take to the dance floor at the office party, find your local ice rink or going for a bracing winter walk. Keeping active over the Christmas period will help your health and general wellbeing.

Have fun!

Most importantly, enjoy yourself! You may end up putting on a couple of pounds over Christmas but eating mindfully and enjoying the period is more important.

You might also want to have a look at the ideas on these websites;

P.S. I’m so lucky to be able to go ice skating every Christmas at Somerset House as a King’s College student. The cheesy grins are from this year’s trip!


  1. Dhand R.;Sohal H., 2006. Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults.

Sticky Gingerbread

This recipe is a family favourite, especially during the holiday time – I don’t think I can remember a family holiday down in Cornwall without a loaf of gingerbread.  I recently made it in cupcake-form which was really comforting in this chilly weather we’ve been having, and got rather good reviews from the girls at uni!


Makes 2 loaves (or 24 cupcakes)

1lb (450g) plain flour

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp ground ginger

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

8oz (225g) brown sugar

6oz (175g) butter

12oz (350g) golden syrup

½ pint (280ml) milk

1 egg


Preheat the oven to 170̊C (Gas mark 3).

Sieve together the flour, salt, ginger, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.

Warm the sugar, butter, and treacle in a saucepan over a medium heat, but don’t allow to get hot.

Beat the egg, then combine all the ingredients, mixing very thoroughly.

Pour into a greased and lined tin (or into cupcake cases) and bake in the oven for about 1 ½ hours, or until the centre is firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.

(If you are baking cupcakes you will need less time, I estimate about 45 minutes to an hour, as it is a dense mixture, but make sure you keep an eye on them!)

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


I hope you enjoy the recipe! x