Recently I learnt about the classification of processing in foods. Even nutritious foods can be highly processed, for example, breakfast cereals and packaged bread.
Here's a simple look at the NOVA food classification system for processed food:
Group 1. Unprocessed food- fruit, vegetables, milk ,water, meat
Group 2. Processed culinary ingredients- vegetable oil, butter, salt, sugar- used to prepare other food
Group 3. Processed food- have had salt, oil etc added to preserve them eg. cheese, tinned foods, wine and freshly made bread.
Group 4. Ultra-processed food- these foods have many ingredients, are created in an industrial setting and contain little, if any, whole food. They are very profitable as they are cheap to make. They have a long shelf life and often need more packaging.
Examples are baby formula, chicken nuggets, soft drink, burgers, chocolate, biscuits, crisps and 2 minute noodles. In Australia we have about 40-50% of our energy intake coming from ultra-processed foods!
Eating too many ultra-processed foods can be associated with depression, obesity, gut issues, mindless eating and even cancer. We tend to eat ultra-processed foods more quickly and they can cause weight gain.
We should try to avoid food with ingredients that you don't have in your pantry. Or don't eat something your grandma wouldn't recognise as food.
The ABC TV show "What are we feeding our kids?" had a great look at what eating ultra- processed foods can do to our bodies:
Leanne is an experienced dietitian who is passionate about helping people eat well.