The Nova System - Deepstash

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How ultra-processed food took over your shopping basket

The Nova System

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.

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The Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet

The basic concept of the paleo diet is to eat whole foods and avoid processed foods.

Studies suggest that this diet can lead to significant weight loss and major improvements in health.

A general guideline

There is no one "right" way to eat for everyone.

Some eat a low-carb diet high in animal foods, while others follow a high-carb diet with lots of plants.

Avoid these foods and ingredients:

  • Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
  • All Grains.
  • Legumes like beans and lentils.
  • Most Dairy, especially low-fat dairy.
  • Some vegetable oils like soybean, sunflower, cottonseed, corn, grapeseed, safflower and other oils.
  • Trans fats: "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils found in margarine and various processed foods.
  • Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates, saccharin, acesulfame potassium. 
  • Highly processed foods: Everything labeled "diet" or "low-fat" or that has many additives.
'Clean eating' is the most widely followed diet
'Clean eating' is the most widely followed diet

Clean eating can best be described as a holistic approach to finding foods that are fresher, less processed, and a higher quality. The broader idea comes from the belief that your health is the single most important investment you can make.

Observational studies have linked ultra-processed diets with poor health, weight gain, and early death. While there is no one right way, the clean eating approach prefer food in its natural state.

Clean eating mindset

Clean eating is about choosing whole foods and ingredients, products that are minimally processed, and as additive-free as possible. It is not a punishing mindset, but a prioritising one:

  • Whole foods and ingredients first.
  • Minimally processed foods made with whole and familiar ingredients.
  • Where possible, avoid synthetic chemicals, pesticides, and preservatives, as well as artificial sweeteners, flavours, and colours.

The practice also promotes home-cooking and developing a culture of food that leads to meals that taste great and are better for you.

What clean eating is not
  • It's not a hard science. It is a conceptual framework to help navigate the vast food choices available.
  • Exclusive and judgmental. It's not an all-or-nothing approach, nor a tool by which to measure someone's value.
  • Versus "dirty." Clean eating can only be contrasted with "messy," where western diets are complicated and confusing.
  • Inflexible. It is an inclusionary approach that you can adapt, whether you are vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, or simply choose not to eat certain foods.
  • Only about avoiding processed foods or chemicals. It is about moving toward quality and making the healthiest choice.
Processed Food in History

The need for food preservation has historically led the Ancient humans to develop techniques to process food.

From learning to control fire to grinding grains, our ancestors have been able to process food in a variety of ways.

Evolution: Shaping Up Humans

Processed food has aided the evolution of Homo Sapiens: As food became easy to eat and digest, our jaws and teeth became less powerful and smaller.

The shape of our brains and even the development of language resulted partially from our eating habits in our evolutionary path.

Changes in DNA
Processed food has changed our DNA and the way we look. 

The current crop of super processed foods is altering our insulin resistance, teeth, metabolism, brain chemistry, and internal organs.