For the first time, scientists are pointing toward ultraprocessed foods as a cause of premature death. The findings were revealed in a new study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine. As reported by Medscape:
“Ultraprocessed foods include mass-produced, ready-to-eat foods such as packaged snacks, sugary drinks, breads, candies, ready-made meals, and processed meats. Such foods usually contain "empty calories" and have a high caloric content with little nutritional value. They are low in fiber and high in carbohydrates, saturated fats, and salt. Usually, they contain food additives and contaminants that may be harmful to health, including some that may be carcinogenic, according to the authors.”
Diseases associated with the foods include dyslipidemia, obesity, hypertension and cancer. While the study was conducted by asking participants to recall foods they consumed over a period of six months, it still is significant that they remembered eating so many ultraprocessed foods.
What’s more, the struggle with weight gain and obesity is often fed by cheap, convenient foods that are fast and easy to fix and eat — quite often only requiring a visit to a drive-through restaurant or simply opening a prepared package from the local grocer’s.
Besides the added sugars and processed fats that most ultraprocessed foods contain, they also are calorie-dense and contain added chemicals to enhance taste or visual attraction, or to increase shelf life.
And, to that end, research has linked growing waistlines to a number of different sources, including those highly processed and high-fructose foods, as well as sodas and high-carbohydrate diets.
Risks associated with belly fat in aging adults include an elevated risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to epidemiology professor Tim Spector, even eating a relatively small number of highly processed ingredients is toxic to your gut microbiome, which start to die off just days after a eating a fast food heavy diet, suggesting excess calories from fast food may not be the only factor to blame for rising weight.
You may be tired of hearing about the dangers of eating processed foods and sugar-sweetened sodas and other foods, but it’s important to keep listening. You can make a difference in your own life by taking the extra step to avoid fast foods and making time to prepare whole, REAL foods at home.
The argument that eating this way costs more can be circumvented with some of the following ideas:
- Purchase only what you intend to eat, and then eat what you purchased. It's easier to accomplish this goal when you make a menu before going to the grocery store. By following a list, you reduce the number of impulse purchases and have what's needed for your menu options during the week.
- Embrace the idea of eating fruits and vegetables that may not be perfectly shaped. They still taste great and are just as nutritious. Store your leftovers in glass containers and use them before they spoil.
- Use leftovers for lunch the next day. When you have enough leftovers, you may not even need to make dinner one night. While everyone may not be eating the same meal, you'll throw out less food, be less tempted to grab a bite at a fast food chain and lower your expenses.