What are ultra-processed foods? List of items as research says UPFs put millions at risk of health issues
Campaigners have called for action after new research shows that including high amounts of ultra-processed foods in your diet increases your risk of developing heart issues, such as heart disease
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Researchers have warned that millions of Britons are at risk of developing heart health issues after finding that the consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The results of two studies from experts in Australia and China were unveiled at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Amsterdam. The one study concluded that increasing your daily calorie consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) by only 10% could increase your risk of developing heart disease by 6%, meanwhile experts in China found that from 325,000 men and women, those with the highest UPF consumption were 24% more likely to have heart issues such as heart attacks or strokes.
According to research, more than half of the UK's diet is comprised of UPF items, including items like ready meals, crisps, bread and heavily processed meat. These items fill the supermarket shelves, often appealing to customers for their quick and convenient qualities.
But some UPF items may go under the radar as being packed with additives.
Here's everything you need to know about what ultra-processed foods actually are, and a list of examples.
What are ultra-processed foods?
Food items are generally classed as 'ultra-processed' if they are made five or more ingredients including artificial additives not used in home cooking. These additives include preservatives, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, artificial colours and flavouring.
Ultra-processed foods typically have a long shelf life, with preservatives added in to increase the items shelf life. In addition to this, some items are also often lacking in nutrients such as fibre and vitamins.
What are examples of popular ultra-processed foods?
The phrase 'ultra-processed food' may conjure up images of fast foods and junk food, and you would be correct. However, some items may go under the radar as a UPF due to their reputation as being a "healthier" option, including fruit yoghurts and protein products.
Some of the most common UPFs include:
- Ice cream
- Ready meals/microwave waves
- Chicken nuggets
- Fish fingers
- Hot dogs
- Carbonated drinks including energy drinks
- Meal replacement powered
- Breakfast cereals, including cereal bars and protein bars
- Instant sauces
- Baby formula powders and follow-on milks
- Vegan 'meat' and 'cheese'
- Margarine and sandwich spreads
- Mass-produced and packaged bread
- Milk drinks
- Fruit yoghurts
It is important to remember however that not every item sold as one of the above is classed as a UPF. For example, a jar of peanut butter may vary in ingredients from producer to producer. One may only include peanuts and oil and therefore not class as a UPF, but other cheaper options may be packed with preservatives which pushes that particular item into the category.
Likewise, homemade items from the list above would often not class as UPF as they are not likely to include additives. For example, a biscuit recipe made at home including flour, butter, eggs and sugar would not be classed as UPF, but a packet of biscuits from the shop loaded with additives would.
Some alcohol items also are included in the group as 'ultra-processed foods'. These include distilled spirits such as: