Ultra-processed food is a term that refers to food that uses additives and preservatives.
Researchers have raised concerns about how ultra-processed foods may affect people’s health when it comes to metabolic problems, sleep apnea, cognitive decline, heart disease, and weight management. There is.
Here we take a closer look at what ultra-processed foods are and how you can reduce your intake.
What are ultra-processed foods?
Think of ultra-processed foods as foods that are highly processed. According to Harvard Health Publishing, they are “made primarily from substances extracted from foods, such as fats, starches, added sugars, and hydrogenated fats.” “Additives such as artificial colors, flavors, and stabilizers may also be included.”
“These are foods that are industrial creations,” Alison Silvetsky, a professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, told NPR.
These are the kinds of foods you “can’t recreate in your own kitchen”, write Emma Heartfield and Kelly Torrence for BBC Good Food. “They are manufactured to be convenient and inexpensive, have a long shelf life, and are usually ready to eat or heat quickly.”
Ultra-processed foods include potato chips, frozen foods, soft drinks, chicken nuggets, and sweetened breakfast cereals, according to the Cleveland Clinic. When determining whether a food is ultra-processed, you can get a better sense of whether it is ultra-processed by asking yourself if it is fried or if it has added sugar or fat.
Examples of ultra-processed foods
Below is a list of ultra-processed foods according to the Gastroenterological Society.
- Packaged snacks such as cookies.
- Mass-produced packaged bread.
- sweetened yogurt.
- Instant soup.
- instant sauce.
- fruit drink.
- Pre-prepared pasta dishes.
- Pizza that can be heated up quickly.
What is the difference between processed foods and ultra-processed foods?
When food is processed, it means that it undergoes processes such as cutting, steaming, and baking. So let’s take potatoes as an example. It is a natural food that grows in nature. It is processed after baking potatoes. Although it is a processed food, it is not an ultra-processed food. Potatoes can be salted and fried to become an ultra-processed food.
According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, processed foods include homemade bread, frozen vegetables, canned tuna, frozen meat, unsalted canned vegetables, nuts and other foods. Ultra-processed foods, on the other hand, include things like boxed pasta, powdered soups, and sweetened cream cheese.
The British Heart Foundation explains what processed foods are: It combines minimally processed foods such as vegetables, fish, beans, legumes, eggs, and fruit with processed ingredients such as salt, olive oil, and sugar. . Ultra-processed foods have more additives, preservatives, emulsifiers, etc. added to them, making them different from processed foods.
For example, let’s say you’re at home and pick up a broccoli crown. Broccoli is minimally processed. Roasting with olive oil and salt completes the processing of broccoli.
How to reduce your intake of ultra-processed foods
Here are 7 ways to reduce your intake of ultra-processed foods.
- Find dishes that are easy to make. Instead of reaching for frozen meals or takeout, develop easy meals that you can put together in minutes with ingredients you have on hand. For example, you can combine a few scrambled eggs with some fruit for a quick meal, or you can make a salad by combining the vegetables you have in your fridge. Chop vegetables like potatoes, peppers, onions, and zucchini at the beginning of the week and roast them whenever you need dinner so they don’t take too long to prepare.
- Switch up your snacks. Common snack foods that come in shiny bags are often ultra-processed. Switching your snacks from things like packaged cookies and chips to carrots and celery can help reduce your intake of ultra-processed foods.
- Stop drinking sugary drinks. While it’s fun to have a sugary drink once in a while, there are other choices you can make to reduce the amount you drink. Instead of drinking soda with dinner, you can also make fruit water with fresh strawberries and mint at home for a refreshing drink.
- Don’t buy ultra-processed foods. It may seem obvious, but you can’t eat what you don’t have. If you want to change your eating habits in the long term, it may be important to stop buying ultra-processed foods altogether and eat them only when eating out or developing similar habits.
- Switch up the meat. Some meats are highly processed, while others are less processed, such as fresh chicken or ground turkey. One way to reduce your intake of ultra-processed foods is to reduce your intake of processed meat (or increase your intake of beans and lentils).
- Cut out added sugar. When you start looking for added sugars, you may find them in unexpected places. Imagine you pick up a jar of sauce at the supermarket. Sauces may have added sugar as well as preservatives. By focusing on cutting out added sugars, you can eat less ultra-processed foods. Additionally, you can learn recipes for sauces that you can easily make at home.
- Reduce the processing of your favorite foods. If you love eating burgers and fries, there are ways to make them less processed. For example, instead of frying potatoes to make French fries, you can also bake them or put them in the air fryer. Although it takes more time, you can also make your own bread instead of buying packaged bread. Alternatively, you can wrap your burger in lettuce.