Ultra processed foods are everywhere. They are so palatable that one cannot resist buying them. But they have low nutritional value. Moreover, there are other factors too in them that operate to harm the body.
Ultra processed foods and low nutrition
Ultra processed foods are packages and ready to eat foods. They are made to be highly palatable. Hence they are tempting. Moreover, these foods also are cheaper due to bulk manufacturing process. And they are convenient and on the go foods that suit the busy working class of the modern days.
But these foods are made from low quality ingredients. They have a lot of refined carbs, sugars, unhealthy fats, and salt. This makes them unhealthy.
Furthermore, the making process alters the whole basic structure of foods. And in the process there is destruction and loss of most of the vital nutrients present in the ingredients.
Moreover, these foods have a lot of additive chemicals that might not be healthy. These include artificial sweeteners, thickeners, emulsifiers, and protein isolates and the like. These lower the nutritional value of the processed foods. And there are other factors operative besides low nutrition that make these foods unhealthy to eat.
Studies on these foods
There are two large scale studies that showed the risk of consuming ultra processed foods. The first of these studies is an Italian study on 20000 healthy adults. It showed that people who consumed large amounts of these foods had a risk of premature deaths.
And the second study from the USA was done on 50000 male health professionals. This study concluded that high consumption of processed foods caused increased risk of colon cancer.
Both studies showed that the risks remained even after poor nutrition in these foods was accounted for. This implies that other factors contributed to the early deaths and colon cancer respectively.
Additionally, it also means that adding nutrient fortifications to these foods or eating other nutrient dense foods simultaneously might not nullify the ill-effects of these processed foods on the body.
Harmful factors in these foods
Ultra processed foods cause chronic body inflammation. The inflammatory markers in the blood are more in those who consume them. This is due to the low nutritive value of these foods. But the food additives in these foods such as emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners also induce it. They do so by changing the gut microbiome.
Besides inflammation, the body considers these foods as foreign and attacks them with increased white blood cells. The foods can also impair kidney function. The food additives can harm the body directly. And then, the toxins in packaging also do the damage. Hence, these foods can cause irreparable harm to the body and early deaths.
The best way out is to completely avoid these processed meals. In the USA, UK, Canada, people consume more than 50% of their daily food in the processed form. This is dangerous.
Often, these food package labels do not mention that they are ultra processed. In such cases, carefully go through their ingredients list. If the label mentions ingredients such as thickeners, protein isolates, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, preservatives, flavoring agents and such other industrial-sounding products, it implies it is highly processed. Avoid it.