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What is an ultra-processed food and why we should reduce its consumption

25 mayo, 2021

We always talk about processed foods referring to those ingredients that have received an industrial procedure, which are the product of a food industry. However, in a different category are ultra-processed foods, we tell you what they are and why you should reduce their consumption.

What is an ultra-processed food?

An ultra-processed food is, according to the NOVA classification that categorizes foods based on the processing they have received, that which is made from processed ingredients and does not contain fresh or identifiable ingredients in its final presentation.

Thus, ultra-processed foods are those made to be eaten without further ado and can replace a full meal.

Processed ingredients such as starch, sugar, oils, salt predominate among its ingredients and are also present in its composition. variety of industrial additives that we cannot buy in stores easily. For example, most of its ingredients are preservatives, stabilizers, flavor enhancers, colorants, flavorings, emulsifiers, among others.

In this category of ultra-processed foods We found the following products:

  • Cookies and pastries.
  • Sweet and / or salty packaged snacks.
  • Breakfast cereals and granola or cereal bars.
  • Energy drinks.
  • Food to reconstitute such as broths, soups or others.
  • Sausages and other cold cuts.
  • Ice creams.
  • Fortified foods.
  • Nuggets chicken, fish or the like.
  • Baubles.
  • Pizzas.
  • Baby jars and commercial baby food.
  • Burgers and other ready-to-eat foods.
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The nutritional profile of ultra-processed foods

Clearly today we are surrounded by ultra-processed foods that make up a large part of the population, the daily diet.

Therefore, it is essential to know the nutritional profile of ultra-processed foods which are widely consumed given the comfort they represent, how accessible they are and how attractive they are to the palate in the midst of a hectic life, “without time” to cook.

A study carried out in New Zealand confirms that in supermarkets, 80% of packaged foods are ultra-processed and that the higher the degree of processing, the worse the nutritional profile thereof. In fact, the ultra-processed ones are the ones with the lowest nutritional quality.

Also, the higher the degree of processing less satiety produce food and higher glycemic response produce, as an investigation published in Food and Function has concluded.

Also, ultra-processed foods are precisely those that can have addictive combinations by simultaneously offering high amounts of salt and fat and / or high concentrations of sugar and fat as a source of energy highly palatable to the human palate.

For these reasons, ultra-processed foods, so accessible, comfortable and palatable are precisely those that leave much to be desired when analyzing nutritional quality.

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Why we should reduce the ultra-processed in our diet

The low nutritional profile of ultra-processed foods should already be reason enough to reduce their consumption if we want to achieve a diet that protects health.

But in addition, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points out a positive association between the intake of ultra-processed foods and the presence of overweight and obesity, conditions that have grown in recent years by leaps and bounds.

It is also these foods that have been most linked to the presence of cancer due to the large number of additives and the poor nutritional quality they have.

In addition, foods with low power to satiate the body and with a high glycemic response can induce harmful metabolic changes, as well as ingredients that are poor in healthy nutrients such as fiber, omega 3 and antioxidants such as ultra-processed ones.

As if that weren’t enough, ultra-processed foods have more sodium, saturated and trans fats, and higher energy density, all of which can negatively affect our health long-term as it has been studied in Brazil.

For all this, it is essential reduce ultra-processed foods in our diet and aim more every day to cook and eat at home, as it is the best way to guarantee good nutrients in the daily diet and thus, protect the body from diseases of bad life habits.

Consulted bibliography | World Nutrition Volume 7, Number 1-3, January-March 2016; Public Health Nutrition, Volume 19, Issue 3 February 2016, pp. 530-538; Food Funct., 2016,7, 2338-2346; Am J Clin Nutr November 2016, vol. 104 no. 5 1433-1440; Pediatr Adolesc Med. Basel, Karger, 2015, vol 19, pp 137-147 and Public Health Nutrition, Volume 14, Issue 1, December 2010, pp. 5-13.

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