Penarth nutrition

A Sneaky Insight into the
World of Nutrition

Have You Heard Of Ultra Processed Foods?

Ultra-processed food (UPF) refers to industrially processed foods that are often high in fat, salt, sugar and additives and low in nutrients and fibre. UPF is a concept initiated by a Brazilian nutrition and health researcher Carlos Monteiro.

Studies have shown that the more UPFs we eat, the more calories we consume and the faster we ingest them. The researcher states that ‘Ultra-processed foods are ‘fast’ food, designed to be portable, convenient and accessible. They induce eating patterns such as ‘grazing’ and skipping main meals, eating when doing other things such as watching television, driving a car or working, and eating alone.’

UPFs are often ‘hyperpalatable’ – i.e. they have been designed to taste and look attractive, they often come in large portion sizes and tend to be heavily marketed – sometimes using health claims that mask their unhealthy qualities (e.g. a fizzy drink with added vitamins can still be high in sugar).

As you would expect an increased intake of UPFs is associated with a range of medical condition including weight gain, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

We can easily identify products like crisps, ice cream, sweets, processed meats, biscuits and fizzy drinks are highly processed and therefore likely to be UPFs.

But ….what about canned soups, baked beans, yoghurts, breads, cereal bars and granola. These products are often viewed as ‘healthy’ but they could be UPF in disguise.

How to spot a UPF – does the product contain :

1. Five-plus ingredients

Any product containing more than five ingredients, especially those ingredients not found in a kitchen, is likely to be ultra-processed.

2. Substances directly extracted from food

For example - lactose, whey and gluten.

3. Additives

Look for — flavours, flavour enhancers, colours, emulsifiers, emulsifying salts, artificial sweeteners, thickeners and anti-foaming, bulking, carbonating, foaming, gelling and glazing agents.

4. Substances derived from processing of food constituents

Maltodextrin, dextrose, lactose, invert sugar, fruit juice concentrates and high fructose corn syrup.

5. Sweeteners

Aspartame, cyclamate or compounds derived from stevia.

6. Protein sources

Hydrolysed proteins, soya protein isolate, gluten, casein, whey protein, and “mechanically separated meat”.

7. Modified oils

Hydrogenated or interesterified oils.

8. Preservatives

Including ascorbic acid, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate and tocopherols.

9. Emulsifiers

Designed to prevent the separation of liquids and solids and including soy lecithin and monoglycerides

10. Thickeners

Adds texture to a food — includes xanthan gum, pectin, carrageenan, guar gum.

11. Colours and colour stabilisers

For example - tartrazine and natural beta-carotene to add yellow hues as well as descriptions such as “caramel colour”.


My advice would be to avoid processed foods as much as possible, base your diet on fresh foods and if you do buy anything in a packet – always read the label!

For tips on easy ways to improve your diet please pop over to my Facebook Group - Eat Your Way To Better Health


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