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Why You Should Try to Avoid Processed and Ultra Processed Food in Your Diet

Most of us are well aware that we should try and eat a healthy diet but might not always be clear on what processed foods are - and then there are even ultra processed foods to cause concern.

For example, one study, published in November 2022 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that ultra processed foods were likely to have contributed to about ten percent of deaths among people aged between thirty and sixty nine years old in Brazil in 2019.   

While another study published in Neurology in July 2022 found that a ten percent increase in ultra processed food consumption could raise the risk of dementia.  

What is processed food?

The term processed food will cover a wide range of foods available in your super market.  You will notice that they have a very long shelf life and often ten or more ingredients which you might not even recognize.

What is ultra processed food?

The whole point and disadvantage of ultra-processed foods is that they have been radically changed by manufacturers.

By the time they reach the shelves in your store, it is likely they have been heated, pressed and enhanced by additives - all designed to make them last longer, taste better, and appear more attractive, often to the detriment of your health.  The additives are ingredients that would not normally be used in home cooking, items such as preservatives, dyes and non-sugar sweeteners.

The complete opposite of minimally processed food or unprocessed foods which travel from the farm to your kitchen with hardly any change to their appearance or makeup.

Ultra-processed foods tend to be junk food.  Foods that are low in fiber and high in sugar and calories.  Another drawback is that replacing homemade food with ready-to-eat, energy-dense foods makes it easier to overeat. The manufacturers will actually design them for overconsumption. They will be very sweet or very salty and of course ready and easy to eat.

Another problem with ultra-processed food is that when eating it, you are more likely to eat too quickly with some of the chemicals including emulsifiers likely to disrupt gut microbes so that they are not receiving signals that you have had enough to eat.

How to cut back on processed food and eat more healthily

It is said that we should stop thinking about food in a counting calories way and change to thinking about the quality.  Another suggestion is to opt for foods that are inexpensive and don't take too much preparation such beans, lentils and eggs while nuts, seeds and whole fruit make great snacks.



Eating highly processed foods linked to weight gain. (2019).

Freeman, C. R., et al. (2018). Impact of sugar on the body, brain, and behavior.

Hall, K. D., et al. (2019). Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: An inpatient randomized controlled trial of ad libitum food intake.

Islam, M. A., et al. (2019). Trans fatty acids and lipid profile: A serious risk factor to cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes [Abstract].