According to a Nutritionist, there are Eight Ultra-Processed Foods that are Actually Healthy

According to a Nutritionist, there are Eight Ultra-Processed Foods that are Actually Healthy

Many foods have come under scrutiny in recent years due to the label “ultra-processed”. This phrase might make you think of the term “avoid at all costs.” Undoubtedly, studies have demonstrated the negative health effects of ultra-processed foods, which are characterized by high processing levels and added sugars, tastes, colors, and preservatives.

Most recently, 45 studies encompassing almost 10 million people were analyzed in a review published in February 2024. It found a worrisome link between eating a lot of ultra-processed food and thirty-two health issues. In addition to “highly suggestive” data suggesting an association to all-cause mortality, the researchers found “convincing” evidence connecting ultra-processed food intake to mortality due to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and anxiety.

However, the fact that some foods can go through multiple processing steps and still be healthy is something that is frequently overlooked in the conversation. High processing content is undoubtedly a warning sign for a food’s overall health effects. Nevertheless, many food options maintain their health advantages even after going through a drawn-out journey from farm to table.

Some meals that are marketed as “ultra-processed” may surprise you by being healthy. These are eight instances.

1. Bread

Bread: Is it wholesome or not? You might feel that store-bought bread is bad for your health because it frequently contains additives like emulsifiers, preservatives, and fillers, if ultra-processed food lists are to be believed. Bread, however, continues to rank among the healthiest foods available when baked with whole grains. Whole grain-rich diets have been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Select a bread that is mostly prepared with whole wheat or other grains to avoid the too processed grain. (Using whole grains as the primary ingredient, such as whole wheat, is encouraging.) For an abundance of nutrient-dense whole-grain options for your toast and sandwiches, check out Dave’s Killer Bread.

2. Canned Soups

Foods in cans have always been stigmatized. Some claim they contain excessive amounts of sodium, and some (such creamy chowders and bisques) are heavy in saturated fat. However, it is truly unfortunate that people are assigning responsibility for canned soup. Not every can has the same amount of nourishment in it, nor are all cans equally ultra-processed.

Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup is one that’s pleasantly low in sodium—not to mention that it’s full of vegetables and plant-based protein. A 1-cup serving only supplies 12% of your daily salt requirement.

3. Granola Bars

Granola bars have several health benefits, especially when they are produced mostly from nutritious grains like oats and minimally sweetened with added sugar. To find out exactly what you’re getting, check the nutrition facts label for added sugars (aim for 7 grams or fewer per bar). You may also glance at the ingredient list.

Oat bars are a favorite of mine as a dietitian. They have only 5 grams of sugar and 22 grams of whole grains, such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and millet.

4. Mocktails

Mocktails: Candies and other sugar-sweetened drinks definitely belong in the ultra-processed group. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available to you that have less sugar and no alcohol content when you’re seeking a sweet, fizzy drink. Even though canned mocktails could have extra coloring, sweeteners, or preservatives, many of them are far healthier than hard lemonades or neon-colored wine coolers.

Certain mocktails really have less sugar and calories than you might think. Personally, I like Mingle Mocktails the most. With only 60 calories and 11 grams of added sugar, these are guilt-free delicious treats.

5. Breakfast Cereal

There are breakfast cereal brands that start your morning on a healthy note, while others contain classic signs of ultra-processing, such as ridiculously high sugar content and an abundance of preservatives. Unbelievably, they can serve as an excellent source of essential vitamins, protein, and fiber for your daily diet. Multibran Flakes from Nature’s Path are a boxed breakfast cereal that is packed with health benefits. It contains only five grams of added sugar, five grams of protein, and seven grams of fiber.

6. Dinners in Frozen

Because many frozen meals contain a lot of sodium and other preservatives, they have a reputation for being overly processed. However, not every frozen meal available is unhealthy for you. Certain manufacturers purposefully create their dishes with few ingredients and little preservatives.

Consider Daily Harvest as an example. Vegetables, lentils, and whole grains are just a few of the nutritious organic ingredients that go into their frozen dinners, which include grain bowls, soups, and flatbreads.

7. Jerky

Sure, flavored jerkies are ultra-processed when they’re packed with extra sugars and salt. Nevertheless, dried meat can make a high-protein, nutritious snack. Seek for brands that have a limited number of ingredients if you want a less processed jerky. Or go for one that’s salmon-based! Alaska Smokehouse sells all-natural salmon jerky that is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 lipids.

8. Packaged Oatmeal

One of the healthiest foods on the planet is packaged oatmeal. It all comes down to how you set them up to succeed. Choose an oatmeal that provides enough fiber and protein (without being overly sweet) instead of the prepackaged varieties that are packed with sugar and preservatives. Do you need a list of the top brands?

Sanchita Patil

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