The Salty Truth Behind Ultra-Processed Foods
You may already be aware that diets heavy in ultra-processed foods enhance the risk of diet-related health problems like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, but new research suggests that diets heavy in ultra-processed foods may even fast track your cells to age faster!
The study carried out by researchers in Spain found that those with diets rich in ultra-processed foods such as refined bread, crisps, chocolate, carbonated soft drinks and premade frozen meals were twice as likely to have altered DNA molecules. In fact, the study found that those who ate 3 or more servings a day of ultra-processed foods are at a higher risk of having shorter telomeres (a structure made from DNA which sits on the end of our chromosomes). This is really important because our telomeres naturally get shorter as we age and scientists see this process as an important marker of biological age. So this study essentially suggests that the modern diet that consists of highly processed foods can accelerate our cells in our body to age faster! Whilst this research is the first of its kind, it brings to light the various negative health implications of consuming junk foods and at the same time highlights the importance of cutting back on eating these kinds of foods. To help you on your way to reducing your consumption of ultra-processed foods, nutritionist Riya Lakhani ANutr, recommends some easy to follow tips that will have you level up your nutrition game!
Revamp Your Shopping List– Focus on filling your shopping trolley with plenty of fresh, natural ingredients that exist in their natural state (just as nature intended). Opt for ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are nutrient-rich foods which offer our bodies natural energy, packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and fibre- all the good stuff!
Cook More Often– Junk foods often contain additives, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavours and emulsifiers- ingredients you wouldn’t dream of using when cooking homemade food. That’s why preparing food at home using minimally processed fresh ingredients is a great way to control what goes into your food. It essentially helps you to eat healthily and avoid all the unnatural ingredients found in highly processed foods.
Plan Ahead- Many people reach for junk foods out of convenience and lack of prep so it’s definitely worth taking the time to plan your meals ahead of time. This healthy habit will help you get plenty of nutritionally balanced meals throughout the day and should minimise any junk food consumption. To help you plan your meals, why not download yourself a weekly meal planner to make it that much easier or order yourself a nutritionally rich Macro Meal (we promise you won’t regret it!).
Switch to a Healthier Alternative– processed foods tend to have very distinct flavours that we crave as consumers. Cravings can vary between sweetness and saltiness as well as crunchy or chewy foods. When cravings hit, try to take a moment to be mindful of what your tastebuds desire and switch to a healthier alternative. For the moments you crave something sweet, why not try a piece of 70% dark chocolate, or if you desire something salty and crunchy, try dipping some carrots sticks into hummus.
Riya Lakhani, Foodfit HQ