Half of all food is now ultra-processed

April 30, 2018 7:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

A report in The Guardian in February stated that half of all food bought in the UK was now ‘ultra-processed’. You might not be familiar with this term: it means, in essence, food that has been made in factories, with industrial ingredients and additives ‘invented by food technologists’. Food, as the report says, that bears little resemblance to the fruit, vegetables, meat and fish used to cook a fresh meal at home.

The report quoted research showing that Britons eat more ready meals, biscuits and snacks than people in the rest of Europe. Salty snacks, sugary cereals, industrially produced bread and cakes – along with a tankful of sweetened soft drinks – have steadily replaced ‘real food’ in many people’s diets. Ultra-processed food, according to the report, now amounts to just over 50% of the average diet in this country.

Surprised? Possibly not. We know that our customers eat well, sensibly and healthily – but we’re pretty sure that in doing so, they feel they’re swimming against the tide.

What’s ultra-processing?

We look at the different sorts of processed food.

What’s processed food?

The article looked at the different levels of processing food could undergo (the berry example is our own).

  • Some food is completely unprocessed: a berry that you pull off the bush in the countryside, for instance, is unprocessed.
  • Some food is minimally processed: a pack of berries might be lightly coated in vegetable oil to prevent the fruit from sticking together in transit.
  • Some food is ordinarily processed: berry juice, for instance, will contain berries that have been crushed to extract the juice. There may be some additional ingredients – perhaps apple juice or sugar, to regulate acidity.
  • Some food is heavily or ultra-processed: this is the category that ready meals and factory-made snacks and desserts fall into. A factory-made ‘berry cereal’ for instance, might contain no berries at all – just chemical flavourings to give a ‘berry’ taste, along with a lot of sugar.

Ultra-processed is bad for us

And here’s the nub of the issue: ultra-processed foods are bad for us. Packed full of salt and sugar – to make us crave more of them – they’re high in precisely the elements we want to limit in our diets, and low in everything else. The professor who led the research team behind the article, Carlos Monteiro, said that people eating ultra-processed foods were missing out not only on vitamins and minerals, but on the ‘bioactive compounds found in natural foods, such as phytoestrogens and fibre’. There were, he said, ‘striking differences’ in nutritional quality between ultra-processed food and ‘real’ food.

Swim against the tide with us!

‘We are moving further and further away from food that nourishes us’, concluded Monteiro. But all is not yet lost – some people are swimming against the tide. And they’re often swimming towards us!

At Naturally Good Food, we believe in real food – in natural food – in food that’s as lightly processed as possible. Our wholefoods section contains real grains, rice, pulses, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. There are minimally processed cold-pressed oils as well, along with minimally processed nut butters, flour and flakes. We’re passionate about helping everyone in Britain (and further afield) eat as healthily as possible. In fact, I’d say that we’re ultra-passionate about it.

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This post was written by Yzanne

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