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Process This: Ultra-Processed Foods Are Dangerous

September 9, 2021

We all know healthy eating is a cornerstone for a long and healthy life. But deciding what this entails seems more complicated than ever.

From the keto craze, flexitarian diet, paleo diet, to the detox diet and everything in between, there’s an endless array of eating plans and diets abuzz in the media, all vying for our attention.

But in this rising tide of often confusing and conflicting choices, there’s one area that health experts can agree on: eating ultra-processed foods is unhealthy and linked to a variety of health risks, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, and even cancer.

What is processed food?

Man grocery shopping

Processed food is any food that’s been purposefully modified to make it last longer or more convenient to consume. This is obviously a broad category and can include processes as simple as freezing fresh-cut fruit or as involved as formulating instant ramen noodles from artificial ingredients.

There are major differences in nutrition between foods that are minimally processed and foods that are ultra- (or highly/hyper-/heavily) processed. Typically, the more processed a food is, the higher the sodium, sugar, and fat content, and as a result, the less healthy (and more dangerous) the food becomes.

The spectrum of processed foods can be outlined as follows:

  1. Non-processed foods include foods that have not undergone any form of processing. For example, raw fruits and vegetables found in their natural state are considered non-processed ingredients.
  2. Minimally processed foods have been simply prepared for convenience or preservation, such as sliced fruit, canned beans, bagged salads, and roasted nuts. These foods are processed to lock in freshness, flavor, and nutrients.
  3. Moderately processed foods have been modified to a greater degree than minimally processed foods and may have been cooked, mixed, prepared, or packaged prior to consumption. Canned vegetables, pasta, and nut butters are examples of this type of processed food.
  4. Ultra-processed foods tend to have a long ingredients list and are jam-packed with fillers, preservatives, and additives designed to enhance their flavor, texture, shelf-life, and nutritional profile. Their nutrition labels usually show them to be calorie-dense and nutrient-poor, with a paucity of vitamins and minerals. Convenience foods, processed meats like hot dogs and deli meats, potato chips, soft drinks, and baked goods like cupcakes and doughnuts are all examples of ultra-processed foods.

The term “ultra-processed foods” was first introduced by a team of Brazilian researchers in 2018. They conducted a substantial study in which they analyzed the diets of 104,980 adults and found that consuming a high amount of ultra-processed foods was actually linked to a higher risk of cancer.

Dangerously delicious

Processed Foods

Alarmingly, it’s speculated that ultra-processed foods are engineered to be hyper-palatable and drives us to consume more.  It can commonly make less processed foods taste less palatable by comparison.

Not only are ultra-processed foods typically high in empty calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar, but they’re also full of artificial ingredients and chemicals.

Set yourself up for success

The Cenegenics Health programs take a comprehensive approach to nutrition, and unlike other diets that tend to focus on a single facet of life, we map out a personalized strategy to achieve transformational results, including helping you establish healthy and enjoyable changes in your eating habits.

What’s more, the Cenegenics approach assures long-term, sustainable results in comparison to fads and “fast” weight-loss solutions by customizing programs based on your individual needs.

We welcome you to optimize your nutrition with Cenegenics.

Our world-class physicians are ready to create a personalized plan to help you feel years younger than your age. You’ll enjoy more energy, lose weight, sleep better, have a healthy libido, and think more clearly.

Allow Cenegenics to help you make the best nutritional choices for your unique needs—schedule a free consultation with our expert medical team now.

Contributor: Rudy Inaba Vice President of Health Performance

Rudy Inaba is Cenegenics’ Vice President of Health Performance. He is a recognized fitness and sports nutrition consultant with nearly 15 years of experience in clinical exercise physiology and lifestyle management. After pursuing his Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Rudy joined Cenegenics where he leads 19 clinical locations nationwide in their advancements in kinesiology, nutritional biochemistry, and their analyses of industry research & market trending.