Ultra-processed foods are the foods you find in supermarkets, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants. They include many convenience foods, such as frozen pizzas, instant potatoes, bottled soups, frozen burritos, frozen chips, and microwaveable popcorn.
There are lots of reasons to avoid ultra-processed foods. They are loaded with calories, sugar, and salt, and they usually have very little of the fiber, protein, and vitamins you need. They are cheap and appealing, but expensive in the long run.
All this has been known for many years, but recent research has shown how harmful ultra-processed food can be. It turns out that eating lots of ultra-processed foods can shorten your life by 5-10 years.
This may sound scary, but don’t worry. While eating lots of ultra-processed foods is harmful, it is not fatal. It doesn’t shorten your life to the point where you die or are left incontinent and drooling. Simply eating a diet too high in ultra-processed foods, but not high enough to make you fat, can shorten your life by 5-10 years.
What explains this effect? The simple answer is that ultra-processed foods are loaded with chemicals. These chemicals are harmful, and some of them can interfere with the function of genes.
These chemicals include artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, and trans fats. These substances are not normally found in human bodies, and when they are, they are usually harmful. Trans fats, for example, cause heart attacks and strokes. Artificial colors are associated with allergic and inflammatory reactions. Artificial flavors can interfere with the functioning of the gut.
Ultra-processed foods have a lot of calories, but very little nutritional value. They are filled with artificial flavorings, chemical preservatives, and sugar. Most of the calories in ultra-processed foods come from sugar.