Most foods you eat are processed to some extent as a necessary measure for extending their shelf life or making them safer to eat. However, processed foods now include more chemical additives and less whole ingredients. This makes them energy-dense but nutritionally imbalanced.
To give you more insight into the effects of these foods, this article covers the downsides of eating ultra-processed foods.
Do Ultra-Processed Foods Increase Disease Risk?
Globally, people are eating more processed foods than ever, severely raising the rate of diet-related diseases. Multiple health conditions have also been connected to eating ultra-processed foods, including:
● Metabolic syndrome
● Heart disease
● Chronic kidney disease
● High cholesterol
Ultra-processed foods also contain more added sugar, trans fat, and salt than processed foods. By overeating sugar, you can suffer inflammation in your body. This is because high-fructose and artificial sweeteners disrupt the gut microbiome by interfering with normal metabolism and feeding harmful microbes.
Processed and ultra-processed foods could also contain partially hydrogenated oil, called trans fat. This can increase your cholesterol levels and block insulin receptor sites in your body. Insulin resistance is also a precursor to type 2 diabetes and is connected to metabolic syndrome.
How Do You Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods?
Jenna Volpe, RDN, said the key is inspecting the ingredient list. She also said food packaging can be deceiving, and the most helpful nutrition information is placed on the backside of the package.
A longer ingredient list also means that the food is highly processed. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the standards for nutrition labels. The most prominent ingredients are listed first, while additives and artificial flavorings are listed towards the end.
If the ingredient list contains a long list of words that are hard to pronounce, you are looking at an ultra-processed food.
What Processed Foods Are Safe To Eat?
Maureen Wang, MD, said you should pay attention to serving sizes, nutrient breakdown, and calories when looking for nutrient-dense processed foods. She also said you should avoid items high in added sugars, sodium, and trans fats.
An excellent example of nutrient-dense processed foods is pulses. It contains lentils, beans, chickpeas, and dry edible seeds from a legume. They are also low-cost and a low-fat source of protein and fiber.
You don’t have to abandon processed foods completely to eat a nutrient-dense diet. By choosing a minimally processed food with familiar ingredients, you can avoid foods with numerous additives and keep eating healthy.