What are the healthy alternatives to ultra-processed foods?

What are the healthy alternatives to ultra-processed foods?
New Study Sheds Light on Health Risks Associated With Ultra-Processed Foods

Scientists have revealed the shocking impact of consuming ultra-processed foods in a short space of time.

Two twin sisters were asked to switch up their diets as a part of a King's College London experiment for BBC Panorama. Aimee, 24, spent two weeks eating ultra-processed foods, while her sister Nancy was asked to consume the same amount of calories – but exclusively eating raw or low-processed foods.

The results revealed that Aimee gained almost a kilo in weight, while her sister lost weight. The test also showed a difference in blood sugar and blood fat levels, with Aimee's worsening.

So, what are ultra-processed foods?

Some foods are considered "ultra-processed" under the NOVA food classification system developed by University of São Paulo researchers. They typically have five or more ingredients.

The other three categories are unprocessed or minimally processed foods, processed ingredients and processed foods.

"They tend to include many additives and ingredients that are not typically used in home cooking, such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours. These foods generally have a long shelf life," writes British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Foods include ham, sausages, crisps, ice cream, mass-produced bread, carbonated drinks, instant soups – and even some alcoholic beverages such as whiskey, gin and rum.

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Stocking up on ultra-processed foods often leaves no room for healthier options.

The BHF encourages people to swap out to make conscious choices, such as swapping out flavoured yoghurts for plain and adding fresh fruit.

Instead of buying pre-made sauces, they suggest making your own and freezing the extra portions for another day.

Porridge with fruits and nuts also makes a great alternative to sugar-filled breakfast cereals.

"In the last decade, the evidence has been slowly growing that ultra-processed food is harmful for us in ways we hadn't thought," Professor Tim Spector of epidemiology told BBC Panorama.

"We're talking about a whole variety of cancers, heart disease, strokes, dementia."

BHF Senior Dietitian Victoria Taylor said: "We already recommend people adopt a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes plenty of minimally or unprocessed foods such as fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils and whole grains. This, along with exercising regularly and not smoking, has been shown to be beneficial for lowering the risk of heart and circulatory disease.”

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