What are Ultra-Processed Foods?

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What are ultra-processed foods?
Within the immense range of changes that technological progress has brought to our daily lives, we can observe issues that have had a very positive impact.  For example, telecommunications that have facilitated the rapprochement between people, as well as the approach to different cultures and knowledge has been facilitated.
However, technological progress has also affected the way in which mass production of food is carried out, which before facilitating the processes by which products are obtained that meet the quality standards that allow their access to the market, they do not guarantee their optimal nutritional contribution.
Much has already been written about healthy eating in order to satisfy aesthetic needs or contribute to the planet, and it has become fashionable to consume organic foods. However, it is worrisome that the impact of foods that are produced industrially using large quantities of artificial substances and replacing natural ingredients, which have been called as ultra-processed foods, is not taken seriously.
What was previously said about the replacement of natural ingredients by artificial ones could lead to the idea that ultra-processed foods would be a kind of flavored plastic pieces, or something that could easily be discarded, but actually more and more ultra-processed foods are being processed. they incorporate to the market, and to the massive consumption. Thanks to the advertising campaigns that offer them through the use of messages designed to make the public believe that what they are going to consume really has a nutritional value.
Negative impact of these foods
To understand a little better the negative impact of these foods, it is important to refer to the NOVA classification system that has been developed by researchers from the Brazilian University of Sao Paulo, taking as a reference the greater or lesser degree of processing that food undergoes.
Without pretending to delve much into the issue of scale, but giving a little light on the subject at hand, group 1 would be made up of absolutely natural foods, that is, those that can be consumed with the full assurance that no they contain no preservatives or additives and they have not been processed, or if they have been processed to a small extent, for example, a frozen vegetable; On the other hand, in group 2, there will be those foods that serve in combination with the previous ones for the cooking processes. Such as oils, salt and sugar, among others; in the case of group 3 it is processed foods such as ripened cheeses or salted almonds; and group 4 is the one that corresponds to ultra-processed foods that are sold as “ready” to be consumed and incorporate preservatives, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers and other synthetic substances to defer their expiration date.
To make the explanation more illustrative, it can be said that in this fourth group of foods are the energy drinks, the soft drinks, the popular cheese-flavored snacks (which only contain artificial flavors), the commercial cookies, the various foods prepared for microwave, among others.
What distinguishes the foods of group 3 and 4 is that the seconds are produced with ingredients that try to imitate the taste and properties of unprocessed foods and under procedures that are only used at industrial level (no one would place “agents stabilizers “to a homemade meal that was held on a Sunday afternoon) and it is precisely the presence of these industrial ingredients that poses the greatest risk of irreversible damage to the health of consumers.

Ultra-processed foods
Recommendations for ultra-processed foods
The danger that experts warn about the consumption of these foods is that, on the one hand, they have been sold as attractive products for the most susceptible population, such as children and adolescents, who grow up with the idea that the consumption of Ultra processed food is part of modernity. Thanks to the constant bombardment in media that transmit the messages of “ready” to heat, fry, consume, etc .; or as those who sell the idea that such a product is as “natural” as fruits that are only present in their artificial flavors.
Such confusion generates these products among consumers, that a parent can buy an ultra-processed cereal that is loaded with dyes, sugar and flavorings because the package says it contains
vitamins and minerals”. But this is nothing more than a publicity hoax, since the contribution of such “vitamins” is most likely not to be as significant as the damage that may be caused to their children by the consumption of such quantities of chemical additives.
In this sense, a greater degree of awareness should be taken of the consumption of these foods, due to the vertiginous increase in the incidence of diseases such as morbid obesity and diabetes caused by bad eating habits, which can be avoided if appropriate measures are taken to eradicate the consumption of ultra-processed foods. The first barrier that must be overcome is cultural, because advertising has imposed misconceptions that over the years have been adopted as if they were dogmas of faith. For example, it is often said that milk contains calcium. Then any product that contains dairy would provide calcium; said in that way sounds absurd, but you can see commercials of highly processed yoghurts and loaded with artificial flavors and preservatives that go on the market and sell as if they really had a high nutritional content.
For all the aforementioned, it is vitally important to document the healthiest alternatives to replace ultra-processed foods, as there is another false idea that has been sold, even in some cartoons, where some natural foods with high nutritional value are demonized. and good taste as broccoli, and that message must not only be denied but replaced by the palpable reality that there are many delicious recipes that can be incorporated into the usual menu without involving an additional sacrifice.

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