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Overeating Ultraprocessed Foods

Texture is one reason why processed foods are too easy to eat.

Woman overeating ultraprocessed foods

Ever wonder why so many people find themselves overeating ultraprocessed foods? It turns out texture plays an important role.

In a crossover study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 50 healthy-weight adults consumed different eat-as-much-as-you-want lunches (on separate occasions), each consisting of one of four food components: “soft minimally processed,” “hard minimally processed,” “soft ultra-processed,” and “hard ultraprocessed.” Each of the meals had the same number of calories, and eating speed was monitored using video.

The investigators determined that there was a noticeable effect of food texture on intake. “Hard minimally processed” and “hard ultraprocessed” meals were consumed at a slower speed and resulted in 21%–26% fewer calories consumed.

The lowest amount of calories consumed was from the “hard minimally processed” meal (an average of 482.9 calories) and the most from the “soft ultraprocessed” meal (789.4 calories). Put another way: Calorie intake was lowest when harder texture food was incorporated into minimally processed meals. So now we see why it’s so easy to quickly stuff in too much of the soft-textured fast-food burger combos, pizza and pastries, and what leads to overeating ultraprocessed foods.

See also: The Science of Food Choices

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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