How ultra-processed food took over your shopping basket
Ultra-processed foods like white bread, cereal, chips, and wafers are remarkably common, convenient, affordable, extremely profitable for the makers, come in strong flavors and are aggressively marketed.
These 'ultra-processed' foods are low on essential nutrients while being high in sugar, salt and oils. The base ingredients which are used to 'engineer' these foods (cheap vegetable oils, sugar, flour) are already refined.
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We consume ultra-processed foods every day without even realizing it.
Most cooked foods can be termed as 'processed foods', but ultra-processed foods are in a different domain, with few people having the clarity to differentiate.
A cooked carrot is processed food, but a bag of industrially-produced, carrot-flavored veggie puffs are ultra-processed and are still aimed at toddlers as a portion of natural food. Other examples include frozen peas or pasteurized milk.
Dr. Carlos Monteiro published a list of four different categories of food, according to how it is processed. This list, known as the Nova System, became a well-known guideline towards eating healthier:
An extensive study in 2018 proved that an ultra-processed diet was responsible for substantial weight gain among participants, as well as 'hunger hormones' remaining activated even after eating.
As developing countries rely on cheap, tasty food to sustain themselves, ultra-processed food consumption is inevitable. However, this practice has to be regulated or reduced because the problem of nutrition cannot be cured by sophisticated processing.
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Instead of munching on fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, more than half of the calories Americans consume come from ultra-processed foods. On any given day, nearly 40 percent of Americans eat fast food. These prepared and processed meals tend to be low in fiber, or even fiber free.
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