Comparison of Homemade vs. Processed foods

The aim of this paper is to evaluate the pros and cons of homemade vs. “commercially” processed as well as more “naturally” processed foods.

Choosing to introduce whole foods in your daily life is not an easy transition but is definitely a rewarding one, especially to your health. We want this transition to work for our healthy well being through out, not just to reach optimum health results and get back to our normal habits (Haas & Levin, 1992). In today’s time it is easy to get diverted towards commercially prepared food, as it is widely available in the marketplace and it fits everyone’s hectic schedule. Advertisements by the commercial food-processing companies add to this growing problem. “Building a healthy diet is like creating a meal” (Haas and Levin, 1992, p. 490). Looking at the positive picture, today many companies are making, more naturally processed and organic products.

Coming from an Indian family and being born and brought up in India, cooking from scratch is already part of my lifestyle. Whole wheat tortilla, Stir fried vegetables with rice and Lentil soup are the three recipes that I have chosen to compare and contrast the effects of food prepared from scratch with those, naturally and commercially processed.

Whole Wheat Tortillas – Evaluation of select ingredients
Homemade Naturally processed(365 Organic) Commercially Processed(Del Rey Tortilleria Inc.)
100% Whole Wheat flour Organic Whole wheat flour Stone Ground Whole Spring Wheat flour
Clarified butter Organic Expeller pressed soya bean oil 100% vegetable shortening
Filtered water Sea Salt Salt

The table above shows the ingredients I picked to compare and contrast the tortilla recipe.

Wheat is treated with pesticides and fumigated periodically during its storage. The bran of the wheat receives the most chemical treatment and germ and bran retains most residues (M.Haas & Levin, 1992). “91% of the wheat sampled by the FDA contained pesticide residue” (Haas and Levin, 1992, p. 442). According to research (, high sodium intake is related to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Sea salt is a better alternative, as it is free of additives and contains more nutrients then the normal table salt (M.Haas & Levin, 1992). Vegetable shortening is a product of hydrogenation of vegetable oil (Webster’s New Millennium). Hydrogenation process lowers the quality of oil by converting some of the unsaturated fatty acids into Trans fats that are known to increase blood cholesterol, LDL cholesterol as well as risk of atherosclerosis (M.Haas & Levin, 1992). Olive oil is primarily monounsaturated and more stable vegetable oil. One important fact I would like to include here is that the fresh homemade tortilla is least likely to contain other industrial contaminants as oppose to the processed variety, as the processed ones go through several hands before final packaging.

Rice and Vegetable Stir Fry – Evaluation of select ingredients
Homemade Naturally processed(Amy’s Kitchen)Teriyaki Bowl Commercially Processed(Marie Callender’s)Sweet and Sour Chicken
Short Grain Brown Rice Organic Brown Rice Rice
Vegetables:v     organic carrots v     organic cauliflowerv     organic peas

v     organic broccoli

v     organic green and

red peppers

Vegetables:v     Organic Broccoliv     Organic Tamariv     Organic Tofu

v     Organic Soybeans

v     Organic Green Beans

v     Organic Carrots

v     Mushroom

v     Water Chestnuts

v     Organic Bell peppers


Vegetablesv     Carrotsv     Broccoliv     Bell Peppers

v     Onions

v     Pineapple


Olive oil Expeller pressed high oleic safflower oil Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
Sea Salt and spices Salt and spices Salt, MSG

Some of the ingredients and additive that I came across were White rice in commercially processed  as oppose to Organic Brown Rice in Amy’s kitchen, non-organic green and red peppers in commercial whereas Organic Green and red peppers in Amy’s kitchen, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in Sweet and sour Chicken. Overall, commercially processed items contained many artificial additives compared to the Organic version.

Brown rice is more nutritious and has some healing properties whereas white rice, since it is mostly processed, is a poor substitute for brown rice (Tierra, 1998).Many essential nutrients are lost during the processing of rice. It is better to buy organically grown rice since the conventional fields are heavily treated (M.Haas & Levin, 1992). According to FDA’s measurement of both U.S. and Mexico’s Bell pepper crops, 64% contained at least one pesticide and 36% contained two or more pesticides. The chemical residues found on the green and red Bell peppers were neurotoxic. These vegetables may also be waxed which would make it difficult to wash off the chemicals and residue (Haas and Levin.1992). The flavor enhancer, MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is found to be allergic and can cause reactions like headaches, chest pains, dizziness, depression and mood swings. It is also found to be possible neurotoxin (M.Haas & Levin, 1992).

Although processed meals are quick to prepare, when we take a look at the nutritional information of the same we come to the conclusion that their value in terms of nutrition is subpar with freshly cooked food. The freshly cooked vegetables are much more tasteful to me than the frozen ones. From previous experience I feel that fresh added spices give out much more original flavor to the food, and from health perspective choosing to cook myself would keep me away from unneeded additives like MSG.

Out of the various ingredients in Campbell’s lentil soup, Water, Modified Wheat starch and vegetable oil are some that I would like to mention. Cholesterol was found to be higher in Campbell’s soup’s ½ cup serving as oppose to Amy’s Organic Soup’s 1 cup serving and Campbell had more than double amount of sodium.

Lentil Soup – Evaluation of select ingredients
Homemade Naturally processed(Amy’s) Commercially Processed(Campbell’s)
Lentils:Green Mung beans BlackLentil beanSplit red Gram

Split Bengal gram

Organic Lentils Cooked Lentils
Herbs and Spices:v     Asafetidav     Cumin seedsv     Mustard seeds

v     Turmeric powder

v     Coriander powder Clove powder

v     Curry leaves Cayenne pepper

v     Sea Salt

v     Cinnamon stick

100% pure herbs and spices Spices, MSG
Filtered Water Filtered Water Water
Clarified Butter Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Vegetable Oil

“Water- the most versatile medium for a variety of chemical reactions-constitute the major portion of the human body” (Wardlaw and Kessel, 2002, p. 418). Water contains many unwanted, harmful chemicals through various sources. Using filtered water is advisable since filtration of water removes extraneous matter like chemicals, metals or bacteria. Starches are modified by bleaching, oxidizing and treating them with certain chemicals. This process does give rise to some health concern (M.Haas & Levin, 1992). “There is no need to consume Cholesterol per se, as body cells can make all that they need”(Wardlaw and Kessel, 2002, p.215). Although it is by no means the only major risk factor, high cholesterol is clearly associated with a high risk of heart disease. I use Olive oil and Clarified butter, which are found to be better for health then the oil used in this commercially prepared meal.

It is clear from the above stated facts about the processed ingredients as well as other additives that choosing to prepare your own meal or buying organically produced meal is far more beneficial to our health and well being. As Haas and Levin mentioned in their book that a daily dose of love is the most important nutrient (1992, p.146), preparing my own meals from scratch gives me opportunity to add this vitamin L. Freshly prepared meals, to me, are more appetizing, palatable and lighter on my stomach. The overall experience is very satisfying. Above all, this field research made me aware of the variety of naturally processed food’s available in the market place.


**The above information is for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor for specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. **


References (2009, March). Retrieved 2009, from Bio-Medicine.

Haas, E.M, Levin, B. (1992).  Staying healthy with Nutrition. Berkley: Celestial Arts.

Tierra, M. (1998). The Way of Herbs. New York : Simon & Schuster Inc.

Wardlaw, G. M., & Kessel, M. (2002). Perspectives in Nutrition. Mc Graw Hill.

Vegetable shortening. (n.d.). Webster’s New Millennium™ Dictionary of English, Preview Edition (v 0.9.7). Retrieved March 25, 2009, from website: shortening


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