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Term of the Day: Ultraprocessed Foods

More calories and less nutrition?

Store aisle with ultraprocessed foods

Exactly what “ultraprocessed” means depends on who is doing the explaining. For the most part, though, it’s loosely defined as any food that has been substantially altered from its natural state. Ultraprocessed foods undergo multiple industrial procedures and are combined with one or more ingredients—such as high-fructose corn syrup, fats like palm oil, emulsifiers, food coloring, and artificial flavors and sweeteners—that are used to alter taste, texture and shelf life. You end up with products that deliver more calories than nutrition.

Steer your cart through the bread, cereal and frozen food aisle of any supermarket and these items are sadly everywhere—to the point where about 70 % of the packaged food in America can be considered ultraprocessed. Perhaps not surprisingly, recent research has been linking higher consumption rates of ultraprocessed foods to poor cholesterol numbers and a host of health problems, including heart disease  and hypertension.

See also: More Evidence That Ultraprocessed Foods Lead to Obesity and Diabetes


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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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