City dwellers are becoming more and more dependent on frozen food now, as the Covid-19 pandemic has limited both eating out as well the dependence on domestic helps to prepare our food. Given the huge uptick in our consumption of processed food, the possible health risks associated with it have also come to the forefront.
Samia Tasnim, a clinical nutritionist at Labaid Hospital, says, "If any food item is processed using the required preservatives and frozen at the required temperature, it remains healthy."
But she also suggests consuming fresh produce as much as possible. Why? Because, there are many factors which, in the long run, can affect our health if we are heavily consuming frozen food.
According to Samia, the chemical being used to preserve food has to be according to the "Recommended Dietary Intake" (RDI) level. Along with this, the shelf-life and cooking temperature have to be according to the required level as well.
While expressing concern over the procedure of processing food in our country, Samia mentioned, "The quality of processed food is not even close to that of fresh food. A pack of commercially packaged sausages contains more calories than the meat you make at home. When the meat is being processed, the protein level recedes because of the added preservatives and chemicals."
Frozen food items like nuggets, chicken rolls, sausages etc. are usually considered as snacks – supporting our daily meals. When these food items are fried, the calories increase, forming saturated fat. This fat is not at all good for our health. It increases our cholesterol levels as well.
Some frozen food items are preserved using starch and corn syrup, which is okay for an evening snack every now and then. However, consuming the same snack every day can have adverse effects on our health.
"We are consuming glucose in one way or another but when we are consuming frozen food, the glucose intake increases because of the ingredients used to preserve the food. This can lead to diabetes in the future," said Samia.
Food items like meat and fish have to be frozen unless it can be purchased fresh from the market every day. In this regard, Samia said "For most of us, there is no option to do groceries every day. In such cases, meat and fish have to be preserved at the right temperature and kept no longer than the date of expiry. But fresh food is always better than frozen food."
Even though most frozen food items are not good for our health, items like ready-made rotis or parathas can be consumed daily if there is no other option.
Before consuming frozen food items like chicken roll, we have to pay attention to the amount of preservatives it contains, calculate the level of calorie intake upon frying it, compare the protein level with the fat that we are consuming, and finally ask ourselves – is it really worth it?
Samia said, "Though the situation calls for it at times, we should avoid having processed food items as much as possible. And it is better to consume fresh food with high protein levels on the daily."