Ultra-processed foods (UPF) are part of our daily food choices, often unknowingly presenting risks to our health.
UPFs are foods that have been heavily processed during production. They usually contain five or more ingredients and will have been prepared with food additives to change their flavor, texture and color or to extend their shelf life.
The Daily Mail followed up with a very interesting book, Ultra-Processed People, by Chris van Tuleken, which highlights just how widespread and damaging UPFs can be.
The increasing number of highly processed foods in our diet has been linked to obesity. It is also believed to play a role in the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and even in the development of certain types of cancer.
Researchers from Imperial College London recently published the results of a groundbreaking study that looked at the diets of 200,000 middle-aged people in the UK and found that higher UPF consumption is associated with increased risk of cancer, particularly ovarian cancer. and brain.
Dr. Kiara Chang, a researcher at Imperial who was involved in the study, told Good Health that the level of UPF in the average British diet is “extremely high and worrying.”
Part of the problem is that these foods are so ubiquitous that they can creep into our diets without us realizing it; even some seemingly healthy foods have processed ingredients
Southampton-based dietitian and nutrition consultant Priya Tiu pointed out the usual hyper-processed foods for each meal and suggested healthier, less-processed alternatives.
Ultra-Processed Foods (UPF): Flavored cereals, cereal bars, mass-produced sliced bread, flavored yogurts, fruit juices, bacon, sausages.
“Some cereals, including cornflakes, are minimally processed, but when the manufacturer starts adding flavorings, colorings, and lots of sugar, they become UPF.”
Cereals rich in fiber and without added sugars are a good option, says the nutritionist,
Yogurt with fruit or granola is often considered healthy, but while plain yogurt is minimally processed, if sweeteners, preservatives, stabilizers, or colors are added, then it becomes ultra-processed.
Granola bars that contain nuts, seeds, oats, and dried fruit may also be UPF. Always read the label. In general, Tiu says, if a product contains at least one item that is never or rarely used in your kitchen, it will be hyper-processed.
What about the toast? Industrial breads made only with wheat flour, water, salt and yeast are processed, while those whose list of ingredients also includes emulsifiers or colorings are ultra-processed.
Popular cereal bars are UPF and should be eaten in moderation. “Don’t eat one every day unless you’re in a real hurry,” Tiu says.
The type of milk you consume with your cereal, or in your tea or coffee, also influences the amount of UPF you consume.
“Cow’s milk is pasteurized, but nothing is added,” says Tiu. “But some oat milks and other plant-based milks are considered UPF, so it’s best to use them sparingly or stick to dairy, which is minimally processed,” she emphasized.
Fruit drinks often have trace amounts of fruit juice, but sugar is at the top of the ingredient list, along with coloring and flavoring.
ANDprocessed foods (UPF) : Store-bought sandwiches, prepared sushi, and prepared salads
Millions of people enjoy store-bought sandwiches every day, and while many contain fresh, whole ingredients, most have additives to enhance flavors and extend shelf life, which is why they’re UPF.
“The perfect sandwich is one that you make yourself with fresh ingredients,” says Tiu.
“Avoid highly processed mayonnaise and sauces and opt for condiments like mustard or pesto that are less processed.”
The type of bread also makes a big difference.
“Mass-produced, packaged white bread (even whole wheat) with a long shelf life is cheaper, but highly processed and very low in fiber”
“Prefer freshly baked breads or those with seeds or oats,” said the nutritionist.
Tiu notes, “Meanwhile, with store-bought salads like Caesar salad, cooked chicken and dressings contain a lot of sugar, additives and flavorings that help make food more flavorful and stay fresh longer.”
“Instead, make a homemade salad with different vegetables for a variety of nutrients and a simple vinaigrette dressing.”
For the more sophisticated, fresh sushi contains rice, vinegar, fish and dried seaweed, but packaged sushi may contain fructose and glucose syrup, as well as acidity regulators and salt.
ANDprocessed foods (UPF) : Ready burgers, chicken nuggets, fish cakes, frozen fries, instant soups.
Popular brands of prepared pasta sauce are quick and convenient, but check the label for ingredients you don’t recognize. Emulsifiers and preservatives could turn your homemade dish into a UPF.
“For a nutritious homemade tomato sauce, fry chopped onion in a little oil and add a can of tomatoes and tomato paste with spices and garlic to taste.”
Plain white pasta is processed (though not UPF), so it’s fine, but be careful with flavored pastas with different fillings or those labeled ‘ready to cook,'” says Tiu.
“There are plenty of pasta alternatives that seem healthier, including some made with lentil flour, but check the label to make sure they don’t contain any unidentifiable chemicals that make them UPF,” she added.
Avoid frequent use of stock cubes that often contain high levels of salt and chemical flavor enhancers that can turn your healthy homemade dish into a UPF.
What about alcoholic beverages?
As for fermented alcoholic beverages, such as beer, cider or wine, they can be consumed in moderation. These are processed, but do not count as UPF. Therefore, they can be drunk with less regret.
On the contrary, gin and tonics, whiskey and rum are highly processed because they have additives in the production process”, adds the nutritionist, warning of the serious dangers of UPF.