Posted by Kim on 2021 Apr 20th
The new kid on the block where food categories are concerned is ultra-processed foods, or UPF’s. Differentiated from other processed foods by their higher levels of sugar, oil, salt, artificial colours and flavours, additives, and preservatives, UPF’s are accused of being at the root of a trend that’s making us heavier, moodier, and sicker.
We aren’t to blame though, not exactly.
UPF’s are addictive, craved, and binge-worthy. Fast food, pre-made sauces, cookies, chips, and soft-drinks are examples of UPF’s. They’re engineered to make us want to eat them more often. The more we eat, the more weight we gain. The more weight we gain, the unhealthier we become.
Another huge downside of UPF’s is that they are devoid of nutrients. When our diet leans too heavily on UPF’s, no pun intended, we deprive ourselves of the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain good health.
One of the most important nutrients lacking in UPF’s is fiber.
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods. The difference between fiber and other carbs is that it isn’t absorbed or digested by the body. Instead, fiber passes through our digestive tract unscathed. The result is improved gastrointestinal health, lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels, a decreased chance of developing certain types of cancer, and a healthier body weight.
What’s more, research has shown that a diet high in fiber, not only probiotics, is the key to maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
In order to thrive, our gut bacteria must eat too. What does healthy gut bacteria prefer to eat? You guessed it: fiber. When you eat more fiber, you serve up the perfect dish for pre-existing bacteria resulting in a leaner, healthier you.
Fiber also counteracts the weight gain caused by eating too many UPFs. Fiber makes us feel fuller longer. You’re then less likely to reach for that donut if you’ve eaten a healthy high-fiber meal beforehand.
The solution to a diet high in UPFs and low in fiber is arguably simple: make better food choices. As the old adage goes: if you don’t recognize an ingredient, don’t eat it.
You do, however, want to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. You do want to eat more fruits and vegetables. You do want to include more unprocessed and low-processed foods in your diet.
Eggs, olive oil, butter, fresh fish, high-quality meats and breads, kombucha, fermented foods, and even all-natural potato chips are better food choices. UPFs like soft drinks, cheese puffs, and processed meats should be limited or avoided all together.
With the many health concerns linked to consuming ultra-processed foods and a diet low in fiber, it’s more important than ever to eat nutrient-dense meals. Eating well and staying well can be as simple as skipping the cookie aisle at the grocery store.