How Processed is your Pandemic Diet?
As we spend more time at home with physical distancing, it can seem less important to focus on things like healthy eating and physical activity but it is actually more important than ever.
In the past 70 years, calories we eat from ultra-processed foods have doubled from 24 to 54 per cent. That’s not surprising, given they are branded, packaged and marketed so heavily and cleverly.
Ultra-processed foods are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and they’re contributing to an unhealthy diet – now the leading risk factor for death in Canada.
“The more ultra-processed foods we eat, the less room we have in our diet for whole and less-processed foods,” explains Carol Dombrow, RD and nutrition consultant with Heart & Stroke.
But are all processed foods created equal?
To better understand processed foods, a classification system called NOVA was developed by an international panel of food scientists and researchers, splitting foods into different categories:
Unprocessed or minimally processed foods: Think vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, meats, seafood, herbs, spices, garlic, eggs and milk. Make these real, whole foods the basis of your diet.
Processed foods: When ingredients such as oil, sugar or salt are added to foods and they are packaged, the result is processed foods. Examples are simple bread, cheese, tofu and canned tuna or beans. They are convenient and help you build nutritious meals.
Ultra-processed foods: Almost half of our calories come from ultra-processed foods. They go through multiple processes, contain many added ingredients and are highly manipulated. Examples are pop, chips, chocolate, sweetened breakfast cereals, packaged soups, chicken nuggets, hotdogs and fries.
Staying away from ultra-processed foods and eating a balanced diet focused on whole foods will help prevent chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke and obesity. Find out more at heartandstroke.ca.