Why Are Ultra-Processed Foods So Bad For You? | Prep UK

Choosing to start a meal prep is done for many reasons, whether to add convenience to your working day, help keep track of your health to meet fitness goals or to save money.

Another reason why prepping or buying from a meal delivery service is beneficial is that you avoid the healthcare minefield that is ultra-processed food, which can often be found in ready meals and other supermarket staples.

Whilst not all processing is bad and can be necessary in foods such as yoghurts and smoothies, ultra-processed food can have immensely negative side effects due to the ingredients often added in the process of producing them.

Here are some of the reasons ultra-processed foods contain the ingredients they do and why they can be so harmful.

Why Even Process Food?

In most cases, the reason why food is processed is to make it last longer without going off in the types of environments they are likely to be sold in. These are known as shelf-stable or ambient foods.

In a lot of cases, this is done through packages and pasteurisation, but in other cases, it is achieved through the use of additional ingredients and additives, such as sorbates for cheese, benzoates for jams and juices, nitrates for meats and ascorbic acid for crisps.

In some cases, this can change the flavour of the food, so in order to make it still enjoyable, other additives are included to correct the flavour, and over time this has evolved into a frighteningly advanced science.

Another, somewhat more disturbing aspect is that this processing can also make foods more desirable to the point of addiction, which given that they can be connected to health conditions and problems such as hyperactivity is a point of serious concern.

They also often have added saturated fat, salt and sugar, all of which can lead to serious health complications if eaten in abundance and are the primary reason why snacks have flavours people want to have again and again.

How To Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods

An easy way to avoid ultra-processed foods is meal prepping, with so many aspects of its approach to food preparation making it easy to spot and avoid the temptation of the ultra-processed.

As you are cooking with fresh or minimally processed ingredients such as fruits, vegetables and whole foods in general, you are reducing your exposure to additives and improving your diet without necessarily having to specifically opt for calorie control.

You can still have cakes, bread or crisps in moderation, but making your own will remove some of the more insidious ingredients as well as taste fantastic.

Beyond this, read the label and avoid specific types of additives such as hydrogenated oils, monosodium glutamate, sugar, aspartame/NutraSweet, and other additives that are included to add flavour or improve shelf-stability.

This can be time-consuming, so an alternative to this is to look at the ingredients list and use the rule of thumb that if it seems excessively long, chances are it is filled with additives that are not the best for your health and well-being.