What are Ultra Processed Foods?
Ultra processed foods are highly manipulated foods that have gone through many processing steps and have had sugars and/or fats plus artificial flavors and preservatives added. They are the lowest common denominator of processed foods and unfortunately, they are also some of the most popular foods: soda, chips, white bread, candy, sweetened breakfast cereals and most foods with a long ingredient list.
7 Reasons to Stop Eating Ultra Processed Foods
Studies on ultra-processed foods have come to only one conclusion: Eating them is detrimental to your health. Here are 7 reasons why:
1. You are what you eat (weight gain)
Losing weight really can be as simple as changing what you eat. A recent study, for example, gave half of its participants unlimited processed foods while the other half of the participants ate unlimited whole foods. After two weeks those eating processed foods gained, on average 2 pounds while those eating the whole, unprocessed foods lost, on average 2 pounds. The participants eating processed foods not only consumed an average of 508 extra calories per day, they also ate faster.
2. Your digestion and your metabolism (calories burned)
Would you believe that it actually takes less calories to burn ultra processed foods then whole foods? This means that just by the act of eating processed foods, you are more likely to gain weight. Around 10% of our daily expenditure of calories is used digesting and absorbing our food. You could look at processed foods as already partly digested (by the act of processing it) so less calories are burned digesting them. A recent study found that participants who ate highly processed burned, on average, around 64 less calories per meal to digest their food than those eating a whole, mostly unprocessed diet. If you eat 3 meals per day that would be almost 200 less calories burned per day if you are eating processed foods. Result? Weight gain.
3. Your heart
Two recent studies show how detrimental ultra processed foods are to your heart. One study showed that for every 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed foods eaten, your risk of ‘heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular events increased by 12%! The other study found that ‘people who ate more than four servings of ultra-processed foods daily had a 62% higher risk of dying from all causes, compared with those who ate only two servings per day.’
4. Your blood sugar and diabetes
If you eat an ultra-processed diet, your risk of getting type 2 diabetes increases dramatically. A recent study showed that, of the people who ate the highest amount of processed foods, 166 out of every 100,000 got diabetes. What about those who ate the least processed foods? Only 116 out of 100,000 developed diabetes.
5. You are what you eat (chemicals)
I remember when I was younger I would eat these candies called Atomic Warheads. They were unlike anything else I had ever put in my mouth. Sweet, tart, burning. They were a chemical minefield that I was putting into my body daily. This was the worst type of ultra processed food. High in sugar, high in chemicals. If a food is made in a lab then it isn’t really a food. Stay away from foods that are full of chemicals, preservatives and sugar. These ultra processed foods are often loaded with chemicals that are meant to increase your craving for food making it more likely you will gain weight from eating them.
6. Your fiber intake
A high fiber diet decreases your risk of heart disease, constipation, hemmorhoids, colon cancer and diverticular disease. It also helps to keep you gut microbiome in balance. Guess what ultra processed foods are lacking in? Fiber. One of the first things to go when processing foods is the fiber which, in turn increases your risk of disease.
7. Your wellbeing
There are times when I am in a situation where there is only lots of ultra processed food. It is usually a vacation scenario that I haven’t planned well for. It is so easy to give in to eating these types of foods (which is why I don’t buy any for our home). What I notice when I eat this way is that I feel bloated, tired, and foggy. It usually takes me a few days of eating well to feel good again. If you are someone that is always eating a lot of ultra processed foods I can tell you from experience that you will feel so much better pretty quickly if you start eating a healthier whole foods diet.
The Mediterranean Diet is a whole foods diet with occasional minimally processed foods (think yogurt, olive oil and wine). If you are interested in eating a delicious diet that will make you feel good check out our resources below:
The Ultimate Guide to Eating the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet Food List
Our 3 part video series on How to Eat the Real Mediterranean Diet.