NEW YORK – Frozen pizzas, sodas and frozen pizzas are usually high in salt, sugar and fat, but scientists are now struggling to determine if there is anything else that could harm processed foods.
Already, the spread of cheap packaged foods has been linked to rising obesity rates around the world. Still, tips to limit processed foods may seem unnecessary, given their ease of use and the growing range of products falling into this category.
Three recent studies offer more insights into how our increasingly industrialized food supply can affect our health, but they also show how difficult science and nutrition advice can be. Here is what they say.
What does "treaty" mean?
Whether it's curing, freezing, milling or pasteurizing, almost all foods are processed. Even though the treatment itself does not automatically make unhealthy foods, "processed foods" is usually a negative term.
Sodas, wrapped cookies, instant noodles and chicken nuggets are examples of highly processed foods. Products that may look healthy, such as breakfast cereals, energy bars and some yogurts, are also included.
What is the problem with processed foods?
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found that people consume an average of 500 extra calories a day when they are fed mostly processed foods, compared to low-processed foods. Even though researchers have tried to match meals with nutrients such as fats, fiber and sugar.
This is not all bad news.
In another study based on questionnaires, French researchers found that people consuming more processed foods were more likely to have heart disease. A similar study in Spain showed that consumption of more processed foods was linked to a higher risk of death in general.
What about processed foods?
Besides the fact that they are really good to taste, there may be other reasons why it is so difficult to stop eating foods such as cheese puffs and ice creams.
In the clinical trial, people participating in the clinical trial were producing more of a hormone that suppresses appetite and less of a hormone that causes hunger. The reason for the biological reaction is unclear. Another finding is that people eat processed foods faster.
"These foods tend to be softer and easier to chew and swallow," said Kevin Hall, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health who led the study.
Hall noted that the source of nutrients could make a difference. Whole fruit and vegetable fiber, for example, may be more effective at satisfying us than the types of fiber added to packaged foods such as cookies, yogurt and soft drinks.
What should you eat?
Even without the latest studies, the advice to limit processed foods probably makes sense to most people. Minimally processed foods tend to be richer in nutrients and harder to eat because they are not as widely available and convenient.
Nevertheless, it can be difficult to follow these tips, especially for people with little time and money to feed themselves.
"What frustrates me is that the message" change the way you eat, "without asking why people eat the same way," said Sarah Bowen, a professor at North Carolina State University, who is studying nutrition. food and inequalities.
Another challenge is the wide range of processed foods, and one should distinguish between those that could be better or worse as companies continually rethink their products to make them healthier. Thus, while the latest studies may give us more reasons to avoid industrialized foods, they also highlight the difficulty of finding solutions.