Why is food being processed

Sustainable nutrition (step 5/7)
Prefer lightly processed foods

Low-processed foods are an important aspect of sustainable nutrition. Health, the environment, enjoyment and your wallet all benefit from this.

Frozen pizza, ready-made baking mixes, snacks - in our accelerated world of life and work we are increasingly turning to heavily processed foods. These often not only have a high energy density with at the same time few fiber and secondary plant substances. They are also pepped up with colorings, preserved with preservatives and made palatable with aromas. Those who tend to eat fresh, under-processed food more often, protect the environment and your wallet and do something good for yourself.

Heavily processed means more energy consumption

And what consumes more energy also causes more greenhouse gases. Industrially dried apple rings require 26 times more energy than fresh apples and cause 40 times more greenhouse gases per kilogram [1]. Frozen french fries beat with up to 29 times more CO2-Equivalents as fresh potatoes to beech [2]. Those who buy less processed food also save on their personal balance sheet: they use fewer transport kilometers, less packaging material and less water [3].

Cooking as a sensual and social experience

If you want to surprise yourself, your family or friends with culinary delights, you will hardly serve up a ready-made meal. Fresh and natural foods are - well prepared - a sensual as well as aromatic pleasure. If you start cooking yourself, you will appreciate the agricultural raw products more and train your cooking skills. Cooking together in the family or in a group can be fun and fortunately today it is increasingly perceived as a social experience.

Full of good materials, of course

Low-processed foods are usually low in fat, sugar and salt. Instead, there are more essential and health-promoting substances such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and secondary plant substances.

For example, in the industrial production of white flour, the vitamin and mineral-rich outer layers and the seedling are largely separated off. With wholemeal flour, on the other hand, the whole grain is ground.

You can see how this works in the table.

The percentages in the table relate to the largest possible amounts of ingredients in bread (wholemeal bread = 100%).
ingredientimportant forin whole wheat breadin white breadWhite bread in comparison
with whole wheat bread
Vitamin B1strong nerves1.15 mg0.45 mg39 %
Vitamin E.good defense4 mg3 mg75 %
Folic acidvital cells125 µg75 µg60 %
magnesiumactive muscles300 mg120 mg40 %
ironhealthy blood10 mg3.5 mg35 %
Fiberactive bowel42 g15 g36 %
Conversely, sustainable nutrition does not mean consuming everything unprocessed or raw. Rather, it is about a balanced amount of heated, processed food portions and unheated, no or little processed food.

Promote domestic agriculture

Ready-made products, sweets and alcoholic beverages are often relatively expensive compared to staple foods; especially measured by their questionable health value. Little processed food is easy on the wallet and at the same time promotes artisanal processing in small and medium-sized businesses. If the added value remains in these companies, this strengthens the economic power of a region and secures or creates new jobs.


[1] Hoffmann I: Diet recommendations and diets - effects on health, the environment and society, habilitation thesis, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Ecotrophology and Environmental Management at the University of Giessen, 2002

[2] GEMIS - Global Emissions Model of Integrated Systems, 4.5, www.gemis.de, 2009

[3] Wiegmann K, Eberle U, Fritsche U, Hünecke K: Environmental impacts of nutrition - material flow analyzes and scenarios. BMBF research project “Food turnaround”, discussion paper No. 7., Öko-Institut, Darmstadt / Hamburg, 2005

In 7 steps to sustainable nutrition