Monday, March 21, 2016

Blown Away By How Much Ultra-Processed Food North Americans Eat

Ultra-processed foods are,
"formulations of several ingredients which, besides salt, sugar, oils and fats, include food substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular, flavours, colours, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product"
In other words they're Cheetos and Lunchables, hot dogs and energy drinks, Oreos and Entenmanns, Lean Cuisine and Hot Pockets, etc.

And it seems that they make up the majority of foods currently being consumed by North Americans.

With prior research clearly implicating diets rich in ultra-processed foods in the development of chronic non-communicable diseases such as obesity, that ultra-processed foods provide nearly 60% of the total daily energy intake of Americans' diets is hugely concerning.

Honestly, as far as dietary advice goes, perhaps the easiest for you to follow would be to try to reduce your (and your family's) reliance on ultra-processed products.

But please don't grab a black garbage bag and head through your home tossing out the stuff, instead slowly start buying ultra-processed foods less often. Increase your use of your kitchen to transform fresh whole ingredients into meals and not simply as a place to mix boxes and jars of stuff together and call it cooking. And if your cooking skills aren't terrific, start with an easy cookbook or online resource and make a point of losing even just one ultra-processed meal and then slowly, surely, build up your confidence and your cooking repertoire.

Do so and I'd be willing to wager the improvement to the quality of your diet will greatly exceed that which you might accomplish by agonizing over comparatively minor details like trying to choose the "best" diet, focusing on your microbiome's health, "juicing", or doing whichever idiotic "detox" is the flavour of the month.

What we need is a swap from products to produce, and given our current food environment and societal food norms, that'll be no mean feat.

(And if you're Canadian, please don't be smug about our neighbours to the South's eating habits because according to research done by these same researchers, Canadians are actually worse off with nearly 62% of our energy intakes coming from ultra-processed fare.)