ATLANTA (CNN) – A study released on Monday has revealed alarming statistics: Eating a lot of unhealthy, "ultraprocessed" foods can shorten your life. In particular, the researchers found that a 10% increase in ultra-processed food consumption was significantly associated with a 14% higher risk of death for all reasons.
Eating a lot of ultra-processed foods may be indicative of other unhealthy habits, such as lack of exercise or smoking, which may also have contributed to the results, although the researchers said they had taken these confusing factors into account. Nevertheless, we need to find out what exactly it means when we say that food is processed and "ultra-processed".
Minimal processed foods retain most nutritional and physical properties. These include washed and pre-cut fruits and vegetables, packaged salads and roasted nuts. Along with foods used to maintain and enhance the nutrients and freshness of foods at their peak, such as canned tuna, beans and tomatoes, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables, they are healthy and provide essential nutrients.
Other minimally processed and therefore healthier foods include sauces and dressings, as well as cereals, crackers, nut butters, yoghurt and calcium and vitamin D enriched milk.
It is the more processed foods, also referred to as "ultra-processed" foods, that are the "problem" of processed foods. They are formulations of salt, sugar, oils and fats as well as flavors, colors and other additives and are usually eaten in the form of snacks, desserts and ready-to-eat and preheated meals.
Ultra-processed foods are industrial formulations that typically contain five or more ingredients and may include, for example, hydrogenated oils, dyes, or flavor enhancers that are not found in other processed foods.
The source of this food category is the NOVA Food Classification System – a research, policy and nutrition and public health tool used in the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. It categorizes food by type, extent and purpose of processing. Here is a list of some common ultra-processed foods:
- Carbonated drinks
- Sweet or savory packaged snacks
- Sweets (confectionery)
- Margarines and spreads
- Biscuits, pastries and cakes
- granola bar
- Fruit flavored drinks
- cocoa drinks
- Meat and chicken extracts
- "Instant" sauces
- "Health" and "Slimming" products such as powdered or "fortified" meal and plate substitutes
- Prefabricated pies, pasta and pizza
- Poultry and fish "nuggets" and "sticks"
- Hot dogs
- Powdered and packaged "instant" soups, noodles and desserts
According to NOVA's reports, "the formulation and ingredients of these products" are very convenient (ready to eat), highly attractive (extremely tasty), highly profitable (low-cost ingredients) and, most importantly, highly competitive with foods that are naturally ready to eat are, and with freshly prepared food and dishes. "
Before you empty your pantry or fridge, I would like to remind you that these meals can be enjoyed in moderation. I certainly do not make my diet with ice cream, which I enjoy in small portions. But this list is reminiscent of foods we may overeat, especially if we hope to live a longer and healthier life.
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