Nutrition experts have compiled a list of foods that are ultra-processed – therefore unhealthy – without us necessarily being aware of it.
- Derived from industrial processing, ultra-processed foods contain substances used to improve their preservation, taste, texture or appearance.
- Several studies have shown that the consumption of ultra-processed foods promotes several disorders: heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
- They are also harmful to the health of the planet: plastic pollution, excessive use of energy and land, loss of biodiversity…
Ultra-processed foods – rich in salt, sugar, fat or additives – are often singled out by health professionals. A study published on January 31, 2023 has also confirmed that consuming a large quantity of these products increases the risk of developing or dying from cancer.
While burgers, fries, crisps, sodas and candies are generally known to be ultra-processed foods, other elements of our meals, on the daily menu, also fall into this category. Four nutrition experts from Deakin University (Australia) warn in an article published in The conversation : “There are many packaged foods that we would normally consider healthy that are ultra-processed”. They listed the least well-identified foods.
Advertisements for breakfast cereals and drinks frequently highlight the healthy and energizing properties of these products eaten in the morning. However, they are highly processed warn the authors: “They may contain maltodextrins (assembly of several carbohydrates from the hydrolysis of wheat or corn starch, editor’s note), processed proteins and fibers and dyes.”
For a healthy breakfast, they recommend betting on oats. This cereal has the advantage of not undergoing any industrial intervention.
A little peckish at 11 a.m.? Avoid protein bars. “Despite the wholesome hype, many of them are ultra-processed, containing fiber and processed proteins, invert sugars (sugars modified by an industrial process) and non-caloric sweeteners”write the authors.
If you have a craving, opt instead for a handful of almonds or walnuts, which are much more natural and also very rich in protein, fiber and omega-3.
Vegetable milks are increasingly popular. However, you have to be very careful when buying. “Many dairy alternatives contain emulsifiers, vegetable gums and flavorings. Not all brands are ultra-processed, so check the ingredient list. Some soy milks only contain water, soy, ‘oil and salt’says the article.
Flour, water, yeast… the basic bread recipe is very simple. However, the composition of the baguette is not always so short, especially if it is purchased from a large retail chain.
“Some packaged breads contain emulsifiers, modified starches (starches modified by industrial methods) and vegetable gums – these are usually the breads wrapped in plastic, sliced and cheaper”warn nutrition experts.
Fresh baked bread may contain salt, but is rarely “ultra-processed.”
If plain yogurt rarely poses problems, beware of flavored pots. They are not so natural. They often contain additives such as thickeners, non-caloric sweeteners or flavorings.
Make-ahead sauces may contain thickeners, flavor enhancers and colorings. Prefer homemade.
“Simple sauces that you can make at home with ingredients like canned tomatoes, vegetables, garlic and herbs are minimally processed”say the authors.
The cold cuts
Beyond its sometimes high salt content, processed meats may contain emulsifiers, modified starches, thickeners and added fibres. For sandwiches, for example, nutritionists recommend replacing it with roast meats or cold chicken.
“The way margarines and non-dairy spreads are made (by hydrogenating vegetable oils) and the additives they contain, such as emulsifiers and colorings, make them an ultra-processed food”insist the Australian experts.
They conclude: “Supermarkets are dominated by ultra-processed foods, so it can be difficult to avoid them altogether. And sometimes choices are limited by availability, food allergies or intolerances. We can all make positive changes to our diets. by choosing less processed foods.”
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