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  • What Is Ultra-processed Food and Why Is It Bad for Your Health?

    Published on August 30, 2022

    When you think about processed food, what do you picture? Maybe it’s the frozen dinners that your grandmother used to serve or the boxed macaroni and cheese from your childhood. Perhaps it’s not even that far back; maybe it’s a frozen burrito or a bag of potato chips.


    Many people find themselves relying on convenience foods instead of healthy options because they’re easier to prepare quickly or cheaper than buying whole foods at retail prices. But it’s not an ideal solution if you’re trying to get healthy. So, here we’ll tell you everything you need to know about ultra-processed food and why you should try to avoid it.

    How do you know if food is processed?

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    If you want to know if a food is ultra-processed, take a look at the ingredients. If you can’t pronounce them, it’s probably been processed far from its natural form.

    Ultra-processed foods contain lots of artificial ingredients, such as emulsifiers and thickeners. These additives make it easier to produce food items and extend their shelf life.

    However, processed food can also include things like frozen, canned, or dried natural products. For example, dried fruits and canned beans are processed, but they’re not considered “ultra-processed.” They retain more of their natural nutrients and are healthy choices.

    What are some common processed foods?

    Processed foods, both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ type, can be found just about everywhere. Some common examples include the likes of:

    • Ready meals/TV dinners
    • Soft drinks
    • Breakfast cereal
    • Canned fruit
    • Meats like ham, bacon, and sausages
    • Bread and bread products
    • Cheese and other dairy products
    • Glucose syrup (also known as glucose-fructose syrup) is an ingredient used in many processed foods

    What’s the problem with ultra-processed food?

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    Ultra-processed foods are often high in saturated fat, and they also tend to have a lot of added sugar. These foods are often low in fiber, which can lead to constipation, hemorrhoids, or other digestive problems. They may also be high in calories (a single packet of chips has more than 100 calories).

    They are often low in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that come from fresh food. As well as this, some products contain added artificial colors and flavors to make them look more appealing – which could have an impact on your health if you eat too many of these foods over time.

    Some ultra-processed foods also contain high levels of sodium (salt) because it’s added during the manufacturing process or used for preservation purposes. Too much sodium intake can increase blood pressure which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke later in life.

    Is it possible to eat a processed food diet and avoid the health problems linked with ultra-processed foods?

    The short answer is no, and ultra-processed foods are so pervasive in our society that avoiding them altogether is next to impossible. They’re everywhere, in many places you’d never expect them, which is why checking labels is so important.

    Tips for cutting down on ultra-processed foods

    There are several ways you can reduce your consumption of ultra-processed foods. If you really want to avoid these types of food, here are some tips that might help:

    • Avoid fast food restaurants when possible (or at least limit yourself)
    • Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables
    • Eat whole grains
    • Avoid too much sugar, salt, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium by reading labels carefully on processed products before buying anything at the grocery store or elsewhere

    It’s helpful to compare nutrition information labels to an adult’s suggested daily maximum intake (often shown as a percentage on the product’s label). If a single serving contains 80% of your daily saturated fat allowance, it’s safe to say this isn’t a healthy choice.

    Conclusion

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    Ultra-processed foods are bad for your health, but they can make up more than half of the calories we eat in many cases. Cutting down on highly-processed foods can be an important way to improve your health and reduce your risk of disease later in life.

    Before buying anything, read the label, and if you don’t recognize some of the ingredients, there’s a good chance it’s something better avoided.

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