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More Light On Ultra-Processed Foods

More Light On Ultra-Processed Foods

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.

@mar_b50

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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.

We consume ultra-processed foods every day without even realizing it.

  • The morning cereal and flavored yogurt.
  • The savory snacks and sweet baked goods.
  • The vegan hotdog and the chicken nuggets available on the street.
  • The doughnut or the premium protein bar we buy as a snack.
  • The carton-packed almond milk put in our coffee or the diet coke we have.
Apart from obesity, ultra-processed foods are responsible for depression, asthma, heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and even cancer.
The Nova System

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:

  • Unprocessed or minimally processed foods, like fruits and vegetables, a steak, and dry fruit,
  • Processed culinary ingredients like butter, salt, sugar, oil, and flour.
  • Processed foods like canned tomato juice, pickles, smoked fish, and traditionally-made bread.
  • Ultra-processed foods like cereal bars, turkey hot dog, sausage rolls, Oreo cookies.

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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