This is a post that aims to make its viewers aware of their food choices and its health impacts. This is not to tell you how to live your life, but to make you an informed viewer so that you can make the right food choices.
Let’s take a quick trip back to our elementary school biology class, and learn about the human anatomy. Our bodies are a complex biological system that involves cells, tissues, organs, and systems that all work to help us function properly, and maintain good health. Each body system is made up of organs and other body structures that work together to perform a specific function within our bodies that are vital to keeping us healthy. Some of these vital organs and body structures include, bones, muscles, heart, and stomach. Now, just as these organs work to help us function so does the food we consume work to help our body systems and organs to work properly and be healthy. According to Carolyn Denton, a functional Nutrition professor at the University of Minnesota, Mainly the nutrients in food, which are vital to our health, are what enable our complex biological system to perform their necessary functions in order to keep our health stable. The types of food in which we obtain our nutrients from and consume actually play a significant role in relation to our health as it affects our body systems and organs.
A study conducted by the University of Oxford, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, assessed the relationship between the health and nutritional impacts of different dietary-change strategies (ENP Newswire, 2018). These dietary-change strategies refer to our choice of food consumption for nutrients. ‘The food people eat impacts their health. Unhealthy diets, overconsumption, and hunger are leading to nutritional deficiencies and diet-related chronic diseases around the world.’ says Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, who led the study. This concept of food consumption gives us a view of nutrition that goes beyond calorie, good foods or bad foods. This view leads us to focus on foods we should exclude from our diet rather than include.
Foods that we should aim to remove from our diets and cease to consume are ultra-processed foods, also referred to as highly processed foods. The harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health defines ultra-processed foods as processed foods that go beyond the incorporation of added salt, sugar, or fat to include artificial colors and flavors and preservatives that promote shelf stability, preserve texture, and increase palatability. The typical American diet is comprised mostly of Ultra-processed foods. These additives and chemically altered substances may be giving our bodies the wrong signals which is causing our health to decline.
Ultra-processed foods contain unhealthy levels of salt, sugar, and fat. As such, the intake of such foods would lead people to consume more sugar, salt, and fat than is recommended, which will in turn contribute more to their calorie intake. It is estimated that ultra-processed foods contribute about 90% of the total calories obtained from added sugars and fats. In a study published in the Journal Cell Metabolism, It was found that people consumed more calories when they were fed a diet that was in ultra-processed foods.These high levels of unhealthy ingredients have been linked to the development and higher risk or certain diseases. Research supports an association between a high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, and other heavily processed foods and an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Most heavily processed foods have little to no nutritional value to humans. This is because most of these foods’ natural nutrients are removed and destroyed in the refining process. For instance the heating or drying foods to make products such as beef jerky can destroy certain vitamins and minerals. Although food manufacturers can add back some of the nutrients lost, it is impossible to recreate the food in its original form. As such, when we consume ufoods, it takes away room, in our bodies, from essential nutrients needed obtained from unprocessed nutrient dense foods. At this rate, people who consume ultra-processed foods are at risk of having nutritional deficiencies. Studies suggest that the more that ultra-processed foods are eaten, the greater the risk of a diet lacking in important nutrients. An evaluation of the dietary intakes of 9,317 U.S. participants in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cohort found that higher intakes of ultra-processed foods were linked with higher consumption of processed carbohydrates, added sugars, and saturated fat. simultaneously, eating of nutrients like fiber, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E decreased.
In addition, heavily processed foods are full of artificial ingredients that we know nothing about. These range from additives to change color, to preservatives to prevent spoilage. Most of them have never been tested by anyone other than the company using them. Even the Food and Drug Administration which oversees about 80% of our food supply, has no knowledge of about half the substances going into these foods. With no studies or research carried out to test these artificial ingredients, they have the potential to be harmful to our health. For example, there is BHA which is a food additive found in foods like Kool-Aid, DiGiorno pepperoni pizza, and McDonald’s sausages. This substance is said by the National Institutes of Health to be reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. A five-year study that included over 100,000 people observed that with every 10 percent increase in intake of ultra processed food was a 12 percent higher risk for cancer.
Making sure that our diet is mostly made up of unprocessed or at least minimally processed foods is necessary for optimal health. To reduce the amount of highly processed foods in our diet, we can start by being aware of the nutritional contents of the food we buy. If there is a long list of food additives, preservatives, and high contents of sodium, added sugar, and saturated fats, then that food is heavily processed and we should aim to avoid them. Another way that can help reduce ultra-processed food intake is making a conscious effort of replacing your ultra-processed foods with unprocessed food or minimally processed food. That is, having a cup of water or a can of seltzer over that can of orange soda.
This writing belongs to Jola Adaralegebe. All ‘copyrights’ reserved.