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What Are Ultra Processed Foods And How Do They Affect Our Health?

What Are Ultra Processed Foods And How Do They Affect Our Health?

Ultra-processed food is currently a hot topic in the media, with more awareness being brought to the benefits of consuming a more whole food diet. But what are ultra processed foods, and why should we limit our consumption of these types of food? Continue reading to learn more!

What Are Ultra Processed Foods?

Some foods go through processing methods to make them  edible, this includes removing inedible parts of a grain, cooking, freezing, drying etc. However, ultra processed foods are foods that have been processed even further, they typically include more than one ingredient and contain additives and other ingredients that are generally not used in home cooking such as preservatives, emulsifiers, artificial colours and more. Examples of foods include products such as carbonated soft drinks, instant noodles, ready made meals, ice cream, sausages, mass-produced bread and flavoured yoghurts. Ultra processed foods are often high in saturated fats, salt and sugars, and low in essential vitamins and minerals, fibre, protein, as well as other essential compounds that are beneficial for health.

Risks Of Diets High In Ultra Processed Foods

A recent meta analysis found that a higher consumption of ultra processed foods was linked to a range of adverse health outcomes. The meta-analysis found that higher intakes of ultra processed foods is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, mental health disorders, diabetes, obesity, cancers, as well as all-cause mortality. 

Another study found that there is an association between ultra processed food consumption and chronic insomnia amongst adults. Ultra processed foods generally lack nutrients that have been found to have sleep-promoting effects such as tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin, as these are normally found in whole foods such as dairy, fish, fruits and vegetables. 

Another disadvantage of consuming a diet high in ultra processed foods is that it leaves less room in your diet for nutritious whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fish. These foods can provide micronutrients as well as other compounds that can benefit our health and prevent adverse health outcomes.

The Bottom Line..

Because of the increased risk of adverse health effects, it is desirable to limit the amounts of ultra processed foods in order to promote better health outcomes. Ideally, our diets should consist of mainly whole foods, which are foods that are in their raw form and have not been processed in any way. The best way to achieve this is to do the bulk of your food shop in the produce, meat and dairy sections of the supermarket, and to cook from scratch where possible.

What are your thoughts on ultra processed foods? Let us know in the comments below!
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  • My mum is 104 yrs old and able to walk around the house with a walking stick. There were no processed foods when she was young and sweet treats were strictly limited. Also wartime food rationing meant a basic diet. Plus most people had to walk everywhere.

    Lyn Padley
  • My Grandma was rarely I’ll and was fit and active until the last few weeks before she died aged 91. She always cooked her own meals from scratch and never had a ready meal or used any processed food.


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