ROSEMEAD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 01: Pre-packaged complete meals for sale within Walmart store, June 1, 2012 in Rosemead, California. (Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)
Food - Drink
When It Comes To Food, What Does 'Ultra-Processed' Really Mean?
With studies connecting processed foods to cancer, cognitive decline, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity, it’s pretty clear that these foods aren’t good for you. However, since “processed” is an ambiguous word, the line between natural, processed, and ultra-processed can get blurred, but there’s one simple guideline that can help you tell the difference.
Technically, any form of altering food by adding extra ingredients is “processing,” so adding salt to your steak has “processed” it. However, the amount of processing a food has gone through matters, so when trying to identify and avoid ultra-processed foods, look at the ingredients list; a long ingredient list is a good indicator that a food is highly processed.
Pay attention to words like “added.” Sugar is fine, but added sugar should be avoided, especially at high levels; the same can be said of added salt, fat, sugar, dyes, and preservatives. Some minimally processed foods might include cheese, fresh bread, peanut butter, and pasta sauce, while frozen dinners, packaged snacks, and fast foods are highly processed.