In countries such as the UK, US and Canada, ultra-processed foods now account for 50 percent or more of calories consumed.
This is concerning, given that these foods have been linked to a number of different health conditions, including a greater risk of obesity and various chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and dementia.
Ultra-processed foods are concoctions of various industrial ingredients (such as emulsifiers, thickeners, and artificial flavors) amalgamated into food products by a series of manufacturing processes.
Sugary drinks and many breakfast cereals are ultra-processed foods, as are more recent innovations, such as so-called ‘plant-based’ burgers, which are typically made of protein isolates and other chemicals to make the products palatable.
The intense industrial processes used to produce ultra-processed foods destroy the natural structure of the food ingredients and strip away many beneficial nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
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