Friday, May 27

The best ways to identify processed foods

Keeping overly processed foods out of your diet is an important step toward avoiding chronic inflammation—the persistent activation of the immune system—and the many chronic diseases that are linked to inflammation. Avoidance becomes difficult, however, when you consider what constitutes processed food. After all, some processing is beneficial to one's health.
Some processing, when done correctly, can preserve the nutritional value of foods or make them more available—for example, during the winter, when we don't have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Pasteurized milk, for example, kills harmful germs during the processing process. And processes like fermentation can sometimes make foods like yoghurt more nutritious.
So, when is processing bad for you, and which processed foods should you avoid? Here's what you should know.


What does "processed foods" mean?

Foods that have been changed from their original form are called "processed foods." It's possible that they've just been chopped and frozen, like vegetables, or that parts that can't be eaten have been taken away, as the shells of nuts. This kind of change requires the least amount of processing.

At the next level, a few extra things are added to processed foods. Some examples of these foods are crackers with just wheat, oil, and salt; freshly baked bread; and canned vegetables that are packed in water and salt.
"Ultra-processed" foods are those that have been processed even more. Ultra-processing usually means that you can't tell what the original food was, and it has things like preservatives, oil, sugar, salt, colouring, and flavouring added to it. This is what we call "junk food."
Hot dogs and deli meat are two examples of ultra-processed foods. Other examples are cheese puffs, doughnuts, frozen pizza, white bread, cookies, microwaveable dinners, and soda.
Dangers posed by processed meatProcessed meats are among the unhealthiest foods available. Examples include bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs, salami, and deli meat (such as deli roast beef or turkey). These foods have a lot of sodium, unhealthy saturated fat, nitrates and nitrites, and other chemical additives like colouring, flavouring, and preservatives.

High consumption of processed meat is related to elevated risks of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. A 2019 study of almost 500,000 people published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that those who ate red or processed meat four or more times a week were 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer during the five-year follow-up period than those who ate red or processed meat less than twice a week.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization says that processed beef can possibly cause colorectal cancer in humans.


Health dangers

When experts caution against consuming processed foods, they typically refer to ultra-processed meals. These foods pose a variety of health hazards. "Food
processing frequently robs foods of their nutritious content, such as when whole grains are refined." "Processing can also generate hazardous compounds, such as trans fat, or add dangerous components in large quantities, such as salt and sugar."
Eating a lot of ultra-processed foods is linked to chronic inflammation, a number of long-term diseases (like heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and cancer), and early death.

The risk of having a heart attack or stroke went up by 12% for every 10% more ultra-processed foods people ate, according to a 2019 BMJ study that followed more than 105,000 people for five years. In another 2019 BMJ study that followed nearly 20,000 people for an average of 10 years, those who ate more than four servings of ultra-processed foods per day had a 62% higher risk of dying during the study than those who ate only two servings.

When is it acceptable to cheat?

 It may seem difficult to avoid ultra-processed foods, especially if you're in a hurry or simply desire a ready-to-eat muffin, deli sandwich, or homemade ragù with chicken sausage. Is it ever acceptable to break the rules if you're healthy?

"If you break the rules once per month, almost anything is acceptable. However, keep an eye on the remaining ingredients." For instance, the ragù may be acceptable if the salt content is kept below 200 milligrams per serving. "
Other rules to observe: Keep your daily salt intake below 2,300 mg, unless your doctor recommends a lower limit. Saturated fat should account for no more than 10% of your daily calories. Limit added sugars to no more than 24 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men.
Eat whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible as part of a plant-based diet (vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds).

And keep in mind: "Just because foods are unprocessed does not mean they are healthy." A diet consisting of red meat, milk, and potatoes is natural but not optimal.

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No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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