What Exactly Are Ultra-processed Foods?

Ultra-processed Foods: If you glance in your fridge or pantry, you will see that it is not easy to identify them because many of them are presented even under the claim of ‘lighter.’ With the help of dietitian-nutritionist Carlos Rios, creator of Realfooding, we give you clues to know how to detect them and learn to eat better.

Did you know that low-fat fruit-flavoured yoghurt or cereal bars (those you eat as a snack thinking they are healthy) are ultra-processed foods that should not be abused?

We have talked about this with Carlos Ríos, author of the book “Eat real food” (Editorial Paidos) and creator of the Realfooding movement, a lifestyle that has more and more followers on social networks and whose objective is to raise awareness among the population of the year caused by ultra-processed foods in our health and the importance of eating natural and good quality food.

1. Clues to Detect an Ultra-processed

A nutritionist dietitian ensures that you have to look closely at the label to identify it. If it contains more than 5 different ingredients, including sugars, refined flours, refined vegetable oils, additives, or salt, it is an ultra-processed product.

2. So They Damage Your Health

It is proven that its continued consumption favours the development of cardiovascular diseases or cancer. The reason, says the creator of Realfooding, is easy to understand: The human being is adapted, neither biologically nor genetically, to this type of food that is relatively new to our diet.

They provide you with unhealthy ingredients and hardly any beneficial ingredients. This causes imbalances at the organic level: blood sugar increases, blood pressure rises due to excess salt. All this, obviously, is a time bomb that favours hypertension or types 2 diabetes.

Also, these types of products favour obesity because they are very high in calories and have a delicious taste, which pushes you to eat even more. And obesity is a risk factor for all kinds of diseases.

On the other hand, the ultra-processed ones are inferior in healthy nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, antioxidants, or proteins. That’s why they have a double negative impact: they give you unhealthy ingredients, and they give you practically none of the beneficial ones.

3. Ultra-processed That You Do Not Imagine That They Are

At first glance, some products are intuited that they are industrial and contain many fats and sugars, so they should not be abused. But there are more where it is not so clear. Bear in mind that, as Ríos assures, “they are designed to suit the manufacturer and may contain claims (” rich in fibre! Low in fat! “) That can be misleading” :

0% fat yoghurts with fruit flavour. We all know that chocolate custard is caloric and should not be eaten daily, but a yoghurt of this type does lead to confusion. Although they contain less fat, they provide an amount of sugar that makes it unhealthy ultra-processed.

Low-calorie cereal bars. The reason they are low in calories is that it is a tiny portion. But indeed, as Ríos assures, “you end up eating two or three because they taste very addictive. ”
The “0% fat” can contain a lot of sugar.

Breakfast cereals. Most have sugar, fat, and salt to enhance their flavour if you look at the label. Keep in mind that the grain, without more, is very tasteless. That is why we must be cautious in the cereals that we give to children for breakfast since most contain more than 30% sugar (30 g of sugar per 100 g of food).

Packaged salads with toast and industrial sauces. As much as the product has green shoots, the bread is made with refined flours and the sauce with refined oils, salt, sugars.

If a food contains refined oil, it is an ultra-processed

It was precooked that imitate homemade meals. For example, fried tomato with refined oils (sunflower, soy, or palm) instead of virgin olive; or creams or soups that include refined starches and fats.

a. 100% Natural Fruit Juices

A juice will never provide you with all the fruit’s nutrients, especially fibre. That is why it does not satisfy you the same. What it does give you is much more fructose (the sugar contained in fruit): to make a small brick, you may need up to three pieces of fruit.

In short: you are consuming an excess of sugars. The same happens with fruit in syrup, quince, or candied fruits.

b. Special Care With Children

Carlos Rios emphasizes this idea, which, in reality, is a wake-up call for parents.

“Many think that their child already eats well because he eats vegetables, legumes, fruit or fish all over the day, but if there is an ultra-processed meal such as industrial pastries at breakfast or snack, almost 100 are already being added to the daily menu. Grams of added sugars. And that, day after day, favours childhood obesity. ”

4. But Not Everything Packaged is Bad

Some Ultra-processed foods products can be entirely included in a healthy diet. They are the “good processed,” and you will distinguish them because:

They have 1 to 5 ingredients, among which there are no significant amounts (less than or equal to 5-10% of the total) of added sugar, refined flour, or vegetable oil.

Examples of Good Processed

  • Yoghurts, kefir Natural and without any sugar1
  • The dehydrated fruit. The water has been removed, so it is healthy, although you do not have to eat much because it concentrates a lot of sugar.
  • Frozen vegetables.
  • Gazpacho or Salmorejo packed in olive oil.

A fair process should contain less than 5 g of sugar or refined oils for every 100 g of food.

  • Broths, creams, and vegetable purees that only contain natural ingredients and virgin olive oil.
  • The “real” whole wheat bread, made with whole flour and sourdough.
  • Chocolate with 75% cocoa.
  • Natural crushed tomato with less than 5 g of sugar per 100 g of food.
  • You can preserve it naturally or in virgin olive oil.

5. The Three Rules of Realfooding

  • Base your diet on natural or minimally processed foods. Of course, 50% of these foods must be of plant origin. The rest can be fish, meat, eggs.
  • Complete your diet with the right processed foods.
  • Avoid ultra-processed ones.
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