Processed and Ultra-Processed Foods

What are processed foods?

Processed foods are any foods which have undergone a man made process.  So, they are: jams, jellies, pies, bread, cake, cheese, soft drinks, ready meals etc to name just a few.

Are processed foods bad for you?

Glad you asked.  Not necessarily.  You see, processing extends the shelf life of the food.  Freezing fruit and veg in the summer and autumn sees us through the hungry gap starting about now.  The same goes for the jams, sauces, olives, dried beans, canned beans and so much more in the cupboards.  Because they last, they are essential.  Processed foods are only bad for you if they contain a combination of too much fat, sugar and salt.

The hungry gap?

It starts about now in January and lasts until May.  It’s the time when there is nothing really growing in Britain.  If you are relying on your garden for fruit and veg you will be getting very hungry.  That’s why we need processed foods.  The supermarkets help too of course!  If we didn’t have access to imports we would have very little in the shops at the moment.

Ok – back to the top – you mentioned ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods are foods that have additives and chemicals added to imitate the taste and texture of foods that have been prepared from scratch.  They are not made in kitchens, they are made by industry.  Food manufacturers spend a lot of time and money getting these just right.  This makes them really nice to eat and we want more, more, more of them.  Think of those crisps where once you start you just can’t stop.

Ultra-processed foods tend to be cheap, energy dense, really tasty, sugary, fatty, salty and they dominate the shelves of the supermarkets.  Have a look at this if you would like to know more.ultra-processed

And these foods are good for us, yes?

Not necessarily!  In fact these foods are linked to cancers, obesity, and insulin resistance.  Because they are cheap, because they are so tasty, because the food manufacturers spend so much getting the packaging and advertising just right – they are ruining our health!  Oh, and they make up half of all UK family food purchases!

Eeek!  Any tips on avoiding them?

Shop around the edges of the supermarket.  The ultra-processed foods are on the aisles in the middle.  Buy foods like vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, pulses which have not been processed.  Alternatively, grow your own or visit a farmers market.  But, because of the hungry gap, they will be a bit limited until May.

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