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My Top Advice for Ultra-Processed Foods

GymPlus Team

February 22, 2024

My Top Advice for Ultra-Processed Foods

What are Ultra Processed Foods?

Ultra Ultra-processed foods are those foods that contain large amounts of ingredients, contain unnatural or altered ingredients, and require a factory setting to produce. The main take-home point here is that these foods are highly or ultra-processed simply because they cannot be easily reproduced in the kitchen and require complicated-sounding synthetic, unnatural ingredients to make them work.

Are Ultra ultra-processed foods Common?

You may think that requiring a factory setting to produce food sounds like designer foods, eaten by a few and reserved for special occasions only. The truth is, there are ultra-processed foods in our daily lives, and we don’t even think about it. They are everywhere. Ultra-processed foods are what the food industry is built on.
What are common examples of ultra processed foods? Carbonated drinks (minerals), sausages, crisps, cereals, biscuits, instant gravies and soups, ice cream, mass-produced bread, ready-made cakes and bakery items.

Are Ultra Processed Foods Bad for Us?

The problem with these foods is that they are manufactured to have a certain taste. They are not natural, wholesome or ripe and ready-to-eat fruit. Rather, ultra-processed foods would not be around if they were not produced in large quantities in a controlled environment in a factory, requiring specialised, often synthetically produced ingredients. Sadly, ultra-processed foods generally contain large amounts of sugar, salt, or fat to satisfy their taste. Think ice cream, muffins, factory-produced breads, carbonated drinks, sports drinks, crisps, …

Don’t some ultra-processed foods contain nutrients?

Ultra-processed foods are, by their very nature of being processed, stripped of many of their nutrients. White bread contains only a fraction of the nutrients that wholemeal (made with 100% wholemeal unprocessed flour) has. Fibre is stripped away, as well as important nutrients, vitamins and minerals contained in the husk (fibre) part of the grain. This white bread is an ultra-processed food devoid of essential nutrients, while sourdough or homemade bread using traditionally milled flour are merely processed enough to turn into bread. Sometimes, synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back to the final product to increase its nutrient content. Sadly, though, these might often be less well absorbed than their more natural cousins, leaving even the fortified ultra-processed foods lacking in nutrition.

Apart from the problem that ultra-processed foods contain large amounts of salt, sugar and fat and are lacking nutrients, they are usually also imbalanced in the “macronutrients” protein, carbohydrates and fats. This makes them less than ideal as a regular food choice.

The evidence is there that ultra-processed foods make us fat, can damage our gut health, reduce our immune system, and, sadly, generally lead us on the way to ill health.

How can I avoid Ultra ultra-processed foods?

  • Start with the small steps. Stop buying biscuits. Instead, when you fancy a sweet treat, why not gain a new skill and learn to make more healthy choices like flapjacks or sugar-reduced biscuits?
  • Rather than opting for a snack bar, take a couple of pieces of fruit from your fruit bowl.
  • Opt to buy nuts in their shell rather than buying salted nuts. The process of cracking them yourself makes you eat fewer nuts (and calories), while the shell actually protects them from spoiling, meaning you enjoy fresher food.
  • Buy bread at the local bakery if you have one. Ask about the type of flour and sourdough they use.
  • Buy natural yoghurt and flavour it at home using a drizzle of honey or freshly cut-up fruit.
  • Use porridge or muesli instead of commercially produced cereals.
  • Get back to making your own gravy. Don’t always buy the easy option.

Ultra Processed Foods, Processed Foods, Unprocessed Foods

Unprocessed are those that remain as nature has provided, such as fresh fruit, eggs, vegetables, fresh meat and grains.
Then there are minimally processed foods such as butter, yoghurt, dark sugar, oil or vinegar. You can see that one step of some kind of processing has been done here to create these foods. They are still very natural and good for you.

Furthermore, there are processed foods. These are mostly fresh or fresh-like and are part of the traditional ambient (shelf) foods. These include freshly made bread, tinned fruit or vegetables, ham, bacon, tinned fish, cheese, and roasted nuts. You can see, these are basic necessities in everyday eating. They can all be produced with a minimum of added ingredients or methods. A lot of these are traditional, such as cheese making, fermentation, or preserving for the winter months.

GymPlus Team

February 22, 2024

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