There has been much in the news recently about studies showing how ultra-processed foods pose several dangers to our health. This is due to their elevated levels of additives, preservatives, and unhealthy ingredients.
Common ultra-processed foods (UPF) include fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, mass-produced breads, frozen meals, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, instant soups, fruit flavoured sweetenedyoghurts, health and slimming products, microwave ready meals. These foods are designed to be convenient, low costand highly palatable due to the sugar and flavour additives.
What are the dangers of UPF:
1. Nutrient Poor:
Ultra-processed foods are often stripped of essential nutrients during processing and contain little or no wholefoods. They are low in vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds that our bodies need for optimal health, vitality, and hormonal balance.
2. High in Added Sugars:
Ultra-processed foods are typically loaded with added sugars and other sweeteners which cause blood sugar and insulin spikes. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dental problems. Sweeteners may contain less calories but still affect insulin control.
3. High in Unhealthy Fats:
These foods often contain unhealthy trans fats and high levels of saturated fats, which can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.
4. High in Salt:
Ultra-processed foods are usually packed with salt to enhance flavour and extend shelf life. Excess salt intake can contribute to high blood pressure, kidney problems, and stroke.
5. Additives and Preservatives:
These foods contain various artificial additives, flavourenhancers, and preservatives to improve taste, texture, and shelf life. Some of these additives have been linked to health concerns and allergic reactions in some individuals. They destroy the healthy gut biome and will affect sleep, immunity,and mood.
6. Lack of Fibre
Ultra-processed foods are typically low in dietary fibre, which is essential for digestive health and promoting a feeling of fullness to prevent overeating.
The lack of fibre and antioxidants plus the presence of chemical additives promote inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to hormonal imbalances, constipation, digestive issues, weight gain and some cancers.
7. Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases:
Regular consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.
8. Higher Calorific Density:
These foods are often energy-dense, meaning they provide a high number of calories relative to their weight. This can contribute to overeating and weight gain. Being overweight leads to hormonal dysregulation causing menstrual and fertility problems.
9. Disrupted Eating Patterns:
Ultra-processed foods can lead to addictive eating behavioursdue to their high sugar, fat, and salt content. This can lead to a cycle of unhealthy eating habits and difficulty in maintaining a balanced diet.
10. Impact on Mental Health:
There is a potential link between ultra-processed food consumption and an increased risk of depression and other mental health issues. The brain needs many nutrients, good fats, and plenty of sleep to function well.
I appreciate that it can be difficult to eliminate these convenience foods completely from your diet at once so try to gradually reduce them whilst increasing your fresh food intake. If you are time poor during the week, try to batch cook at the weekend and freeze or make extra dinner to take for a packed lunch to save money too!
Overall, a diet high in ultra-processed foods is associated with numerous health risks. It is essential to focus on whole, minimally processed foods that provide essential nutrients and promote well-being. Opting for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help protect the body from disease. This will help to reduce inflammation in the body and restore hormonal balance. In the short term a good quality multivitamin and broad spectrum probiotic can be helpful to help bring your body back into balance.
I’m Vicky Wilson from Energise Health and Nutrition, a Naturopathic nutritionist and homeopath who specialises in women’s hormonal health, food intolerances and gut health. I offer one to one sessions with personalised plans, run group online courses throughout the year, nutrition talks and food intolerance testing.
I’m now in my 3rd year of Busy Women Networking membership (in Towcester) and I love the support and camaraderie you get from Aruna’s groups. Attending the monthly meetings has helped my confidence coming out of lockdown and returning to face to face client meetings. I’ve visited several other BWN venues, social events and recently joined one of the mixed Busy Networking groups too. To find out more about Busy Women Networking see their website
I serve clients local to Milton Keynes and globally online. If you’d like to learn more about me and my business head to my website About me | Energise Health and Nutrition Book in for a free clarity call to see how we can work together or a networking 1-1. Book | Energise Health and Nutrition
I’d love to hear your thoughts on UPF and all things nutrition so do get in touch.
Enquiries@energisehealth.co.uk or call 07776 140140