What Are Ultra-Processed Foods?
The International Food Information Council teaches us that any kind of food processing is defined as any deliberate change made to food before it is eaten.
The term “processed” simply refers to a procedure that changes food from its original state. Cutting up apples, grinding wheat into flour, or freezing fresh vegetables are all considered forms of processing. Foods that closely resemble their whole, fresh form are described as minimally processed. Examples are canned or frozen vegetables, frozen chicken or fish, fresh bread, and milk or yogurt. Minimally processed foods contain nutrients like vitamins, fiber, minerals, and protein — just like unprocessed foods.
Three Stages Of Food Processing
Understanding the stages can help you determine appropriate food choices.
The primary stage of preparation involves harvesting grain, shelling nuts, and slaughtering animals.
This includes processes like baking, freezing, and canning.
Ultra-processed foods are defined as industrial formulations with five or more ingredients. These foods usually include ingredients not recognizable or not traditionally used by home cooks and also contain added fat, salt, oil, sugar, artificial colors, chemical preservatives, and other additives.
Ultra-processed foods are ready-to-eat packaged foods with man-made additives like synthetic dyes, artificial sweeteners, and emulsifiers. These are things like salty snack foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, meats molded into shapes like suggest and strips, sweets, frozen pizzas, and frozen dinners.
Ultra-processed foods contain more calories than nutrients and have nothing in common with foods from nature.
The National Health and Nutrition Survey revealed that the added sugars ingested from ultra-processed foods are eight times higher than processed foods, and five times higher than sugars from minimally processed food.
Food labels include more than 75 different names for sugar. For example, fructose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), barley malt, castor sugar, beet sugar, dextrose, maltose, maltodextrin, rice syrup, molasses, honey, tapioca syrup, and many, many more.
Kids Are Eating More Processed Foods Than Ever Before
A new study from Tufts University has shown that children and adolescents get 2/3 of their calories from ultra-processed foods.
That is up from 61% twenty years ago, and that is not good news. Ultra-processed foods comprised 57.9 % of energy intake, and 89.7% were from added sugars.
Examples of ultra-processed foods are frozen meals, soft drinks, cold cuts, hot dogs, salty chips, energy bars, nuggets, biscuits, fries, and packaged baked goods like cookies, cakes, and snacks.
Because ultra-processed foods are accessible and affordable, they have become a staple in the diets of kids and teens. While ultra-processed foods do offer convenience and time savings, the cost of that convenience can be high.
High intake of ultra-processed foods increases the risk of weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, dental cavities, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. At the same time, ultra-processed foods are low in necessary nutrients and dietary fiber. So we become overfed and undernourished.
Ultra-Processed foods are not created by chefs. They are made by food chemists concerned with shelf life, appearance, and mouthfeel.
Many ultra-processed edibles are counterfeit foods—junk foods.
Dr. Mark Hyman said, “there is no such thing as junk food—there is food, and there is junk.”
If we regularly consume mostly junk, our internal terrain will become an internal junkyard, and we will suffer bad health consequences. Suppose the bulk of your diet is based on ultra-processed foods. In that case, you are setting yourself up for ailments usually attributed to “old age” as you advance in years. Please know diseases of “old age” are, in many cases, the result of poor food choices over time—like an excess of ultra-processed foods.
Trends in Consumption of Ultraprocessed Foods Among US Youths Aged 2-19 Years, 1999-2018 highlighted a new study reflecting a five percent increase in the share of youth consumption of ultra-processed foods in the past two decades. The study showed that “high levels of ultra-processed food consumption persisted across levels of parental education and family income, and it found that Black and non-Hispanic White youths had higher intake levels of ultra-processed foods than did Mexican American youths.
So What Can You Do For You
For the sake of your health you will do well to consider alternatives to ultra-processed foods.
Use Ezekiel whole grain bread. Another choice is oopsie bread8 made from eggs, cream cheese and salt.
Avoid margarine. It contains trans fats and unhealthy seed oils.
BAKED GOODS and SALTY SNACKS
These foods are loaded with trans fats, seed oils, and excess salt. Eat cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts instead.
Just one serving container of creamer contains 25 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates. Drink it black or sweeten it with Stevia or Lakanto. Lakanto is a blend of sweet monk fruit and fermented sugar erythritol. It has no calories. It tastes exactly like sugar. It is a 1:1 substitute for sugar. It is all-natural. It will not contribute to weight gain, cause dental cavities, or promote type 2 diabetes. You can get it a Walmart and Amazon.
Fast food restaurants offer healthy options like Wendy’s apple pecan salad.
Consider alternatives like fresh fruit in season, walnuts, baked sweet potato chips, dehydrated vegetables, regular cream instead of coffee creamer, and salads.
Suppose a food comes with a wrapper or is packaged in a box with a barcode. In that case, chances are it is ultra-processed, and you should not make it a regular part of your everyday food regimen.