According to a recent study commissioned by Heart & Stroke, Canadians consume nearly 50% of their daily calorie intake from ultra-processed food.
This means that almost half of what we eat each day is significantly altered from its original form due to the addition of salt, sugars, fats, additives, preservatives, and artificial colors.
The food we eat can have a significant impact on our overall health. Ultra-processed foods like candy, soda, pizza, and chips don’t contain the necessary nutrients. The nutritional value of our diet is affected by the amount of ultra-processed food we consume.
Here’s some good news. Not all foods in boxes are ultra-processed. Confused? Was I too? This list helped me a lot. A panel of international food scientists and researchers developed this classification system. It divides foods into four different categories:
- Unprocessed and minimally processed food: Vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, meats, seafood, herbs, spices, garlic, eggs, and milk. These natural whole foods should be the foundation of your diet.
- Processed food: Foods packaged with oil, salt, or sugar are processed. Simple bread, tofu, and canned tuna are examples. These foods are altered but not in any way that is harmful to your health. These foods are convenient, and they help you create nutritious meals. See? See?
- Ultra-processed Foods: This category accounts for almost half of our daily calories. We should reduce this. These foods undergo multiple processing steps (extrusions, moldings, millings, etc.). These foods are highly processed, contain many additives, and have been heavily manipulated. Soft drinks, chips, chocolates, ice cream, sweetened cereals for breakfast, packaged soups, or chicken nuggets.
Cook often One of the most significant changes in diet patterns over the past 70 years is the decrease in home-cooked meals and the rise in ultra-processed food. Balance the scales! Make more meals at home, and avoid ultra-processed foods (heating frozen fried poultry doesn’t qualify).
Enjoy a meal with family and friends. Real food, honest conversation, and good company. This is an excellent combination for dinner. Studies show that those who eat together eat healthier, with more vegetables and less deep-fried food.
People who eat together tend to eat better, according to studies.
Make better choices when dining out: Restaurant food doesn’t have to be overly processed. It can be healthy and fresh. You can challenge yourself to eat half of your meal with vegetables, wherever you eat, and opt for baked or poached items rather than deep-fried.
Think about the source. Consider where your food is sourced. A steak is made from cows, and apples are grown on trees. If you can’t tell where an item came from because it was heavily manipulated, ask yourself if the food nourishes your body. It’s unlikely.
Beware of misleading food advertising and marketing. Ultra-processed foods may be marketed as being “healthy,” “natural,” or “organic.” While the words used to describe the ingredients of the food, they do not refer to how it was produced. Buyer beware! Even if a cookie is organic and natural, it’s still highly processed.
Fresh, unprocessed food is good for you. It can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Real food can be turned into tasty meal ideas by shopping and cooking. Try these recipes: Cumin-crusted beef or Stir-fried broccoli, red bell peppers, and beef. Both are ready in less than 30 minutes.