Hey, if you’re thinking about stepping up your eating game this year, forget about the calorie and carb-counting hassle. Let’s focus on what matters—how much processing your food goes through before landing on your plate.
Here’s the lowdown: Most of us munch on loads of ultra-processed foods without even realizing it. I’m talking about those protein bars, granola bars, low-fat yogurts, and breakfast cereals that sound like they’re doing your body good.
But hold up! These so-called health foods are in fact, a concoction of industrial ingredients, carefully designed to hit that “bliss point” that makes us crave and overeat. And guess what? They make up most of the calories we chow down on, playing a major role in the diet-related health issues that are messing with our life spans.
Here are a few signs that scream “ultra-processed” and might be something you are chomping down every day:
- More than three ingredients: Keep it simple. If your food has a laundry list of ingredients, especially the ones you can’t describe, it’s probably processed to the max.
- Thickeners, stabilizers, or emulsifiers: Watch out for these sneaky additives. They’re like the behind-the-scenes crew making your food last longer than it should.
- Added sugars and sweeteners: Sweet stuff might sound innocent, but too much of it is a telltale sign of ultra-processing. Check those labels for hidden sugars messing with your health goals.
- Ingredients that end in ‘-ose’: Keep an eye out for sneaky sugar aliases. If the ingredient list is throwing around words like glucose, fructose, or sucrose, it’s sugar in disguise.
- Artificial or ‘fake’ sugars: Don’t fall for the imposter sugars! Aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose may sound like they’re from a sci-fi flick, but they’re just artificial sweeteners messing with your taste buds and still creating havoc with your body’s natural way of processing sugars.
- Health claims: Beware of foods boasting about being the next health sensation. Phrases like “superfood,” “ultra-healthy,” or “guilt-free” might be a red flag. Real talk: If it’s truly healthy, it doesn’t need a billboard.
- Low-sugar promises: The term “low-sugar”, “diet”, or “zero” might sound like a dream come true, but often, it’s a trick. Manufacturers reduce sugar only to add in more of those sneaky artificial sweeteners. Sneaky, right?
- Instant foods: Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to food. Instant noodles, microwaveable meals, and quick-fix snacks are usually loaded with processing and preservatives. Anything instant is going to spike sugar in your blood in addition to being close to zero nutrition. Your taste buds might thank you in the short run, but your body won’t be as pleased.
Now that you’ve got this arsenal of info, go ahead and be the Sherlock Holmes of the grocery aisle. Sniff out those ultra-processed culprits, and let your shopping cart be a haven for real, wholesome goodness. Your body and your taste buds will high-five you for it, now, and years from now.