What are “Ultra-Processed” foods?
Founder of Teatis Tea
Have you ever heard “Ultra-Processed” foods”?
"Ultra-Processed Foods" may be an unfamiliar word, but it's actually a food that really surrounds us. Ultra-processed food has become a part of our daily and has made an increased proportion in our daily meals.
Either they are beneficial or harmful and how you can avoid them, depends on knowing first, what ultra-processed food is?
Ultra-processed food is the fourth category in the NOVA food classification system based on the nature, extent, and purpose of industrial food processing. The other three categories are
- Unprocessed or minimally processed food
- Processed industrial ingredients
- Processed foods
By definition, processed food is simply one that’s been altered from its original form. It is defined as any change in food before it is ready to eat.
Heating, pasteurizing, canning, and drying are all considered forms of processing. Some definitions even include refrigeration in the mix. So, unless we’re plucking apples directly off a tree or drinking milk straight from a cow, the vast majority of the foods we eat are technically processed.🙃
In today’s world, almost half of the food we eat every day has been significantly changed from its original state, with salt, sugar, fat, additives, preservatives, and/or artificial colors added.
What we eat has a big impact on our whole health, and ultra-processed foods like candy, soft drinks, pizza, and chips do not contain enough of the beneficial nutrients that the body requires. The more ultra-processed foods we eat, the poorer the overall nutritional quality of our meals will be.
But you need to know first what are the genera ultra-processed foods, as not all foods that come in a box are ultra-processed. ☝
According to NOVA, some commonly used ultra-processed foods are,
- Soft drinks
- Fast Foods like Pizza or Burgers
- Packaged bread and buns
- Chips and Candy
- Store-bought ice cream
- Boxed cake mixes
- Instant noodles
- Infant formula
- Breakfast cereal
- Energy bars
- Flavored yogurt
- Chicken nuggets
- Fast food burgers
- Hot dogs
Some of these make sense, while others do not, but they are all ultra-processed foods, and they are not as beneficial for your health as you may think. Some foods that may even come in a box are not ultra-processed.
Think of vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, meats, seafood, herbs, spices, garlic, eggs, and milk. Make these natural foods a part of your daily meals to have a healthy diet.
This is a quick table to understand the 4 categories.
These examples in the table can help you quickly determine if a food is minimally processed, processed, or ultra-processed.
Relationship of Ultra-processed food with Diabetes and Obesity;
People who eat a lot of ultra-processed food are more likely to develop diabetes than those whose diets contain more foods found in nature; a new study suggests.
Because ultra-processed foods are often high in sugar, fat, and empty calories. Consuming lots of these foods has long been linked to an increased risk of a wide variety of health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity, and certain cancers. Sugary drinks, packaged snacks, and ready-made meals all count as ultra-processed foods- that are the foods that are not so beneficial in obesity and diabetes.
Research has linked ultra-processed foods with conditions such as cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, as well as with a higher risk of premature mortality.
How can you cut ultra-processed foods consumption?
One major change in dietary routines in the last years has been the decline of home-cooked meals, and the increase in ultra-processed foods. So, Cook at home more often, with the least ultra-processed food ingredients.
Moreover, real food, real talk with friends and family are much more enjoyable with consuming healthy foods like vegetables, fewer soft drinks, and less deep-fried foods.😀
*Make sure to check with your doctor before changing eating habits, or trying new supplements.