The ultra-processed food and its dangerous impact on our health have always been a leading issue, amongst many health scientists and nutrition experts.
Amongst developed countries, like US, UK etc. almost about 70% of people eat Ultra-processed food, which is accounting for the consumption of 90% of the added sugar.
While most of the unprocessed or minimally processed food are without any calories, processed food has only 2% of the calories, whereas its ultra-processed version offers 21% calories from added sugar, increasing the risk of cancer and other dangerous disorders.
According to the US dietary guidelines, that have been published in the year 2015; in order to avoid the dangers of processed food, you need to completely depend upon its unprocessed version, with recommended daily limit of 10 percent of your total calories.
What exactly is the processed food?
Processed food is currently available in all the aisles of the market; and has already been proven to be dangerous for health. Processed food has marked their presence everywhere from the fishery, bakery to dairy products, and also in dietary products, drinks and frozen products. In general, identification of ultra-processed food is being done with reference to NOVA food classification system proposed by Brazilian and Canadian Researchers; according to which, food has been divided into four groups, such as:
Fresh food or minimally processed food: These include edible components of different animals and plants without adding anything extra like salt and/or sugar.
Processed culinary ingredients: These include ingredients made up of vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, vinegar, and salt. These evil ingredients are observed to be responsible for raising bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which in turn can increase the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disorders.
Ultra-processed food: These include highly processed food with all sorts of additives, such as preservative, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, chemical additives and monosodium glutamate (MSGs) etc. that are highly dangerous for health, like canned food, bread, fries, etc.
How ultra-processed food can be spotted in the stores?
Experts have suggested some of the guidelines to spot ultra-processed food, according to which first thing while buying any food item is to read the complete list of ingredients. And if there are more than 5 components on the list then it is an ultra-processed food.
Secondly, you should always check for the type of ingredients and about the actual reality of the product.
Another common thumb rule of identifying ultra-processed food is to look for ingredients like sugar, fat, and salt; and if all of them are present in the product, it is surely an ultra-processed food item.
Another general criterion that can be helpful in discerning if the product is processed or not can be the cost, outer packaging, and extra-culinary preparation. On an average processed food is costly with attractive packing to attract customer’s attention.
What are the consequences of ultra-processed food?
Since it has now been clarified that most of the food that we eat is processed in some or the other way. The fruits are cut from the trees, beef is being grounded on the machine and butter as well as cheese are the milk products that are separated from it and churned in the machine, before being presented to the customers. The only difference between these ultra-processed foods is that some are chemically processed and other are mechanically processed.
It is further crucial to understand how these processed foods are dangerous for your health, exposing you to the risk of cancer and various other diseases. Here’s how the ultra-processed food can be fatal to your health.
High in artificial sugar
Processed foods are generally loaded with artificial sweeteners imparting empty calories. Their nutritional value, when evaluated has almost been related to zero. Studies have further estimated many devastating effects on health, such as insulin resistance, increase in bad cholesterol and triglycerides, fatty liver as well as abdominal intolerance. Thus, you should not be surprised to know that these processed foods that are high in artificial sugars can lead to heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes.
The food is engineered to be overconsumed
Eating good and tasty food is a common human tendency. Our tests buds are adopted to navigate natural food supplements towards their processed counterparts. In this regard, our natural appetite may lead us towards sweet, fatty and salty food, since it is loaded with empty calories that are essential for our survival.
In order to lead the fierce competition in today’s market, many manufacturers engineer foods to be very attractive and brain-rewarding; leading to it’s over-consumption. Various studies have evaluated that the excessive reward value of processed foods always bypass the inherent mechanism of regulation of energy balance and maintaining a healthy weight in individuals. However, this bypassing of internal mechanism has reached to an extent that it has started affecting our health. Scientists have explained the phenomenon as the food reward hypothesis of obesity.
Multiple times, you might have noticed the long list of ingredients on a packet of processed food. However, we always tend to ignore it since we don’t have an exact clue of what these ingredients are. Well, the ultra-processed food contains preservatives, colorants, textures, and flavor, in the form of a proprietary blend that is not being disclosed by the manufacturer. Most of these foods are being tested for its consumption safety as well as feasibility; but experts are taking their stamp of approval with a grain of salt and relating them with more dangerous health hazards, like cancer, atherosclerosis, stroke etc.
- Ultra-processed food is the source of empty calories and added sugar leading to the adverse effects on many important bodily functions.
- These foods are highly processed and rewarding. They may lead to its overconsumption.
- Many foods are loaded with artificial chemicals exposing us to various health hazards including the risk of cancer and obesity.
- The food can hijack our brain’s natural tendency of eating good, nutritious food and may addict us towards empty calories.
- The simple carbohydrates present in processed food can rapidly increase the level of insulin, leading to insulin resistance.
- The food is low in nutrients and fiber since they are intentionally removed during processing.