“360” shows you different perspectives on the top stories and debates of the day.
For decades, the question of whether or not a food is healthy has largely focused on what’s in it: Does it have a lot of fiber and vitamins? Is there too much fat, salt or sugar?
Recently, however, many experts have begun to believe that how our food is prepared can be just as important as what it is made from. With this improved way of looking at nutritional health, a new villain emerges: .
Although there is no universal definition, highly processed foods To foods that are highly processed and high in additives such as preservatives, artificial flavors and sweeteners. The term was first popularized by A In the year In 2009, nutritional systems that looked only at the makeup of food, such as the Food Pyramid, ignored the critical differences in how different foods end up on our plates.
Because most of what we eat is processed in some way, it can be many different foods. . Most “junk foods” (such as sweets and chips) fit comfortably into the category, but many items may be considered unhealthy for the average consumer – including flavored yoghurts, plant-based milks and most supermarket bread. A study estimated that approx. It comes from highly processed foods.
Why is there a debate?
A growing body of research shows that diets rich in many nutrients are linked to a variety of health problems, including obesity. , , And in fact . The challenge, however, is to determine whether those issues are directly related to how the foods are produced or are the result of other factors.
Several They say there is enough evidence to suggest that highly processed foods are unhealthy, even when compared with the same nutritional makeup. They argue that these products are created to trigger responses in our brains that encourage overeating and are often based on artificial ingredients that we don’t fully understand.
But critics of this approach say these studies only confirm what we’ve known for decades: that foods high in fat, sugar, and salt—mostly processed foods—are unhealthy. There is also concern that the increased risk of too many processed foods may lead people to avoid healthy foods altogether. For example, meat options, different types of bread and even baby formula.
Another source of debate is what to do if too many foods are considered dangerous. Many experts say the main reason they’re so ubiquitous is that they’re cheaper and more convenient than Whole Foods. They argue that there needs to be a massive change in our country to get everyone, not just people with a lot of time and money, to cut these unhealthy products out of their diet.
Currently, the US government’s official dietary guidelines do not take a position on highly processed foods. But they are professionals Should the issue be included in the next set of revised recommendations, scheduled for release in 2025?
Highly processed foods actually kill people
Four of the six leading killers are linked to inadequate nutrition, which is the food we eat most of the time in America through convenience, safe, and cheap food. – Christopher Gardner, director of nutrition research at Stanford University b
What matters is what’s in the food, not how it’s made.
“If the problem with highly processed foods is their sugar and salt content, for example, the problem is with the sugar and salt, not because we bought a burger at a fast food restaurant… or made our own burger at home.” – Beth Skwarecki
Many highly processed foods are not whole foods
“I felt convinced that junk food was bad. But that didn’t stop me from eating. Learning about UPF is a different experience – you start to realize that some of these things aren’t food at all. – Helen Lewis
Many healthy items are lumped in with junk food in such broad categories
“Even after more than a decade, there is still no agreed-upon definition. … This ambiguity has consequences: consumers are wary of all prepared foods and are moving away from frozen and packaged foods, even though they are affordable and healthy alternatives to fresh produce.” – Günter Kuhnle
What we know for sure is that obviously unhealthy foods should be avoided
“It’s a science-backed move to completely eliminate sugary drinks and plain junk food. Even if you’re choosing relatively healthy versions of these foods, most of your diet may not be good if you’re eating too much of them. Other than that, the information is mud.” – Tim Requart
Governments must intervene to stop highly processed foods
“Now we have to think about using different strategies to reduce consumption. This includes adopting new laws and regulations. … Telling individuals to ‘be more responsible’ is unlikely to work to erode that responsibility when Big Food spends billions each year marketing unhealthy products. – Philip Baker, Mark Lawrence and Priscilla Machado, The
Ranting about ultra-processed foods does nothing to solve why people eat so much of it.
“I have very little interest in whether or not anyone eats highly processed food. I don’t care if people want to eat it, it’s fine. My concern is living in a world where they have the freedom to eat whatever food they want. I think real food should be cheap and available to everyone. – Chris Van Tuleken, author of “Ultra-Progressive People.”
We cannot overcome world hunger without highly processed foods.
“I’m all for a mostly whole-foods diet. But foods used in the right way and in moderation can be of great benefit to the global diet. The stigma against them hinders these efforts, so we should embrace cooking rather than avoiding it. – Hannah Ritchie
Photo example by Quinn Lemmers/Yahoo News; Photos: Getty Images.