Unless your diet consists solely of whole, raw foods that you prepare yourself, it’s inevitable that you’ll be eating some processed foods every single day. “Most food needs to go through some sort of processing … to even be edible and digestible,” registered dietitian Stacey Nelson explained recently to Harvard Men’s Health Watch. “The minute you cook something, you are processing it.”
That said, there’s a big difference between healthy and unhealthy processed foods, which is why scientists have been creating food classification systems to distinguish between the two. One such system is NOVA, which was developed by researchers at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2010 and groups all foods into four different categories based on how they are made. (Speaking of, here are the 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make.)
Systems like NOVA gave rise to the notion of “ultra-processed food”—aka the worst processed foods that you want to avoid eating as much as possible. These foods are “formulated” (via industrial and chemical processes) using multiple processed ingredients that are themselves made using sugar, oils, fats, salt, etc.
A recent study published in August 2020 in the journal Nutrition found that higher consumption of these ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of death from all causes.
Specifically, the analysis looked over data from 20 different studies involving a total of 334,114 participants and found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, obesity, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, asthma, wheezing, and frailty.
The outliers from this list were prostate and colorectal cancers, gestational diabetes, or the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, which did not appear to be linked to a diet high in ultra-processed foods. That said, the study authors stated that their results will need to be confirmed using large-scale prospective clinical studies before specific recommendations for the general public can be made.
Still, this research suggests that people who eat more ultra-processed foods are more likely to die prematurely from all causes and/or suffer from a variety of illnesses and health conditions. With this in mind, consider cutting these 8 ultra-processed foods from your diet ASAP.
Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, are one of the most ultra-processed foods, according to food classification systems like NOVA. In fact, here are the 108 most popular sodas ranked by how toxic they are.
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