A study published on Monday reveals alarming statistics: eating a lot of unhealthy, "ultra-processed" foods can shorten your life. In particular, researchers have found that an increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods by 10% is significantly associated with a 14% higher risk of death from all causes.
Consuming a lot of ultra-processed foods can be a marker for other unhealthy habits, such as lack of physical exercise or smoking, which may have contributed to the findings, although the researchers claim they have taken these confusing factors into account. Still, we need to know what this means when we say that food is being processed and the "ultra-processed".
Processed foods are defined
Minimally processed foods retain most of their inherent nutritional and physical properties and include washed and pre-dried fruits and vegetables, salad in sacks and roasted nuts. These, along with foods that are processed to preserve and boost nutrients and the freshness of food in their peak – like canned tuna, beans and tomatoes, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables – are healthy and offer important nutrients.
Other minimally processed foods – and therefore healthier – include sauces and dressings, as well as cereals, biscuits, walnuts, yoghurt and milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
These are more highly processed foods, also known as "ultra-processed" foods, which are "problematic" processed foods. They are made up of salt, sugar, oils and fats, as well as flavors, colorings and other additives, and are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts and ready-to-eat and heat dishes.
Ultra-processed foods are industrial compositions which usually contain five or more ingredients and may contain, for example, hydrogenated oils, dyes or flavorings not present in other processed foods.
Ultra-processed foods you need to restrict
The source of this food category is the NOVA food classification system, a nutrition and public health research tool, policy and action used in the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine. It categorizes the food according to the nature, extent and purpose of the processing. Here's a list of some common ultra-processed foods:
- Carbonated drinks
- Sweet or salty packed snacks
- Ice cream
- Sweets (confectionery)
- Margarines and spreads
- Cookies, pastries and pastries
- Bars for cereals
- "Fruits" – flavored drinks
- Cocoa beverages
- Extracts of meat and chicken
- "Instant" sauces
- "Healthy" and "slimming" products such as powdered or "fortified" dishes and meal substitutes
- Pre-cooked pies, pasta and pizzas
- Poultry and fish "bites" and "sticks"
- Hot dog
- Powdered and packaged soups, noodles and desserts
According to NOVA reports, "the formulation and ingredients of these products make them very comfortable (ready to eat), highly attractive (hyper-acceptable), highly profitable (low-cost ingredients) and – of great importance – competitive to foods that are naturally ready to consume freshly prepared dishes and dishes. "
Before sending the entire closet or refrigerator, let me remind you that these foods can be used moderately. I certainly do not avoid my ice cream diet, which I enjoy in small portions. But this list is a reminder of foods we may eat too much, especially if we hope to live longer and healthier lives.