There is a close association between processed food and negative Health Outcomes. Processed food is usually high in calories and low in nutrients, but is relatively inexpensive and tastes good. Because excessive consumption of processed foods leads to negative Health Outcomes, experts recommend that a person’s diet be composed primarily of fresh, unprocessed foods. They believe that this type of diet will result in healthier eating habits and have proven much better long-term health outcomes than those associated with consuming a diet consisting largely of processed foods. Globally, food preferences are evolving in ways that are harmful to both human health and the environment. Differences in dietary habits and food choices are growing between regions, countries and globally within countries. Differences can be seen in both the quantity of food consumers eat and the quality of foods available to them.

In order to investigate the association between processed food and negative health outcomes, a study was conducted among participants in the U.S. NHANES 2004-2010 survey to understand how often processed foods were consumed by participants as part of their overall diet. The results indicated that people who ate more processed foods also ate fewer unprocessed fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are considered healthy. These people also had a greater likelihood of being overweight or obese compared to people who ate the fewest processed foods, and they exercised less. The results of this study provide evidence that consumption of processed foods is associated with reduced intakes of certain healthy dietary components and increased risks for adverse health outcomes in the U.S. population.

The scientific community recommends a diet high in fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products as well as fish, lean meats, legumes and nuts with smaller amounts from other sources such as potatoes, corn, oil-containing dressings or sauces and sugar containing desserts (i.e., those containing added fats or sugars) be included in an individual’s regular diet. In the American diet, ultra-processed foods account for 58 percent of calorie consumption and 89 percent of added sugars. The food industry has been a constant target of criticism for their intake of artificial ingredients and elimination of other healthy ingredients like the use of omega-6 vegetable oils. When omega-6 oils are used, in contrast to omega-3 sources such as flax, they are very inflammatory.

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When facts about the health effects of processed foods are published, there is a denial and backlash. For example, a 2011 report on children’s health and fast-food consumption was written by the Committee on Nutrition, Food Science and Human Nutrition found that fast food and soda were associated with poorer nutrition among children while also being associated with obesity. However, the report received a lot of attention and was mostly met with denial and backlash. One of the reasons is due to the fact that McDonald’s, who is a supporter of “preventing obesity among children”, released a statement claiming that their French fries are heated at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The statement claims that their fries are cooked “to order” and kept warm in an oil-filled pan in their broiler section despite them being frozen raw in a bag as they always are when purchased by customers.

There have been many reports on how processed foods can be labeled with health claims so people can eat them without being informed or warned about the ingredients that cause inflammation or which generally led to unhealthy lifestyles. Processed foods labeled with health claims are usually high in fat and junk food, but are not allowed to have their fat content listed on the label. This is because it would make them less appealing to purchasers.

In 2007, England was the first country to ban certain words that are commonly used in food labeling which implied a health benefit. Since then, other countries have increasingly implemented similar measures such as Germany’s 2011 law banning descriptions of foods as “healthy” or “light” and requiring that they instead be labeled as foods aimed at boosting or maintaining health in order to keep them off supermarkets’ shelves.

A food that is processed may sometimes be termed a processed food (e.g., processed cereals or other grain-based products), and the process may involve some degree of change or alteration to its original form, but the term is most often used as a general adjective for foods produced by processing rather than for direct product names. The role of processing in food preparation has been evaluated as it relates to nutrient loss and overall nutrient quality of foods.

Consumption of ultra-processed foods as a proportion of total caloric intake in various countries ranges between 55 and 65%. These foods are often high in calories, and they contain relatively few essential nutrients and dietary fiber. A recent analysis of these foods by the Food Institute of New York University indicated that the top ten most-consumed ultra-processed foods are potato chips, sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drinks, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, pizza, chicken nuggets, chocolate confectionery (such as candy), ice cream, sweet desserts and salty snacks. The average American diet is centered on processed foods. The average person consumes 36 pounds of refined sugar every year from foods such as soda and candies.

In conclusion, there is a huge amount of research that shows us how simple it can be to remove processed foods from our diet, and we can all benefit from this. A healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with a healthy diet, and it is important to understand which foods are processed and which are not so you can make the best choices for your health.

References

Clark, M. A., Springmann, M., Hill, J., & Tilman, D. (2019). Multiple health and environmental impacts of foods. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences116(46), 23357-23362.

Juul, F., Martinez-Steele, E., Parekh, N., Monteiro, C. A., & Chang, V. W. (2018). Ultra-processed food consumption and excess weight among US adults. British Journal of Nutrition120(1), 90-100.

Moubarac, J. C., Martins, A. P. B., Claro, R. M., Levy, R. B., Cannon, G., & Monteiro, C. A. (2013). Consumption of ultra-processed foods and likely impact on human health. Evidence from Canada. Public health nutrition16(12), 2240-2248.

 
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