Food Processing # 1


Photo 31-1-18, 11 12 40 am

My last post discussed some difficulties in classifying foods by nutrients.
Another way of classifying foods is by food processing techniques.

Classification by Food Processing Techniques

Breaking away from guidelines that focus on nutrients, researchers in Brazil have developed a system of food classification based on the degree of food processing. They call this NOVA – ‘The Star Shines Bright’ – and have applied this to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population (1).

Similar to that classification, throughout this blog, I shall classify foods in the following manner:


Unprocessed or minimally processed intact core foods.

Core is defined as the most important and basic part of something (2) and I define a core food as one not in an extracted form or with any additions; and core foods are those central to a basic diet and are foods found in nature including fruits, vegetables, tubers, grains, legumes, milk, poultry, eggs, fish, nuts and seeds.

Minimal processing of core foods preserve the integrity of the intact food or are used for food safety purposes. These include bagging, cleaning, cutting, shredding, removal of inedible parts, grating, freezing, bottling or canning in water only, cooking and pasteurizing.


Processed foods are derived from single foods; or from mixtures of single foods, foods and ingredients, or mixtures of ingredients.

Processed food can be prepared by individuals in the kitchen, prepared fresh by a person in a food outlet, or by traditional food processing technique by a food processor such as fermentation, dehydration, rolling, flaking and juicing.

Processed foods include: pasta; flaked or rolled cereals; bread; vegetables canned or bottled in salt, or sugar; fruit canned or bottled in sugar or juice; cheese; yoghurt; mixed dishes; baked foods; dried fruit and vegetables; juices and smoothies.


Food ingredients are refined or extracted from core foods or other substances.
Food ingredients are extractions from single foods or other substances by pressing, milling, crushing, refining, purifying, fermentation, and other techniques.
They are not intended to be eaten on their own and used in food and meal preparation. They include oils, butter, cream, sugar, salt, starches, tapioca, flours, meals, tomato and fruit concentrates, cereal fibres, cocoa, tea, coffee, vinegar, yeast, herbs and spices.


Industrial formulations that can only be prepared in a laboratory or food plant.
Food products are made from processed foods, food constituents, or synthesised in the laboratory from food substrates or other organic sources. They may include the addition of hydrogenated fats, modified starches, colours, preservatives, flavours, enhancers, and other food additives. They include snack-foods, confectionery, energy drinks, soft drinks, cereal bars, cake mixes; energy bars; sweetened flavoured yoghurts; ice-cream; instant noodles; seasonings; pre-prepared meats; hot dogs; burgers; pizza; instant soups; fish and chicken nuggets; commercial baked products; commercial fried foods. (1, 3)


Classifying foods in this manner does not in itself mean that the diet should only be composed of core foods. Nor is it meant to imply that food products or food-formulations should never be consumed. Indeed, infant formula, and enteral nutrition for hospitals, both forms of complete nutrition, would be classed as food-formulations. However, the convenience, the availability, and the infiltration of food products and food formulations into our daily lives has made it more difficult to choose a healthy diet.

In the coming months, I will explain these classifications in more depth and expand on the reasons why I believe we need to –

return to eating core foods, not food products or food formulations.
move away from a nutrient focus on our diets to a food focus
clarifying added fats, oils, sugar and flour as ingredients, not core foods
stop raising any nutrient to super-nutrient status
stop vilifying nutrients
understand the way the proliferation of food products and food formulations has confused the messages on nutrition
understand what is behind the health claims we believe

To be continued …
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.


1. Ministry of Health of Brazil Secretariat of Health Care, Primary Health Care Department. Dietary Guidelines For The Brazilian Population – 2nd edition. 2014.
2. Cambridge University Press 2018. Cited 20 Jan 2018.
3. Monteriro C. The big issue is ultra-processing. (Commentary). World Nutrition, November 2010; 1,6: 237-269.

4 thoughts on “Food Processing # 1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s