Ultra-processed foods contain ingredients you wouldn't find at home — and they're everywhere.
A diet high in UPFs has been linked to weight gain, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Nutritionist Rob Hobson shared three ways he reduced how many UPFs he eats.
After Rob Hobson read a book on ultra-processed foods, he realized that although his diet was largely healthy, a lot of what he ate was highly processed — even his packaged wholemeal bread and grocery store hummus.
His store-bought lunch while working from the office, for example, usually consisted of a protein bar, a fruit yogurt, and a bagel with ham slices — all of which counted as UPFs.
There's no agreed definition of what counts as a UPF, but Hobson, a registered UK-based nutritionist with 18 years of experience, describes them as manufactured products containing five or more ingredients, many of which you wouldn't find in a domestic kitchen. They also tend to have a long shelf life and come in highly marketed packaging, he told Business Insider.
There's been a growing spotlight on UPFs in recent years, as research has linked diets containing high levels with an increased risk of a host of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, and certain types of cancer, Hobson said. They are also associated with overeating and weight gain, because they tend to be ultrapalatable. The reason processed foods are bad for our health is not yet fully understood, but the evidence that they are continues to grow.
As he delved deeper into the science, Hobson decided to reduce the amount of ultra-processed foods he ate as much as possible. However, he isn't too strict because UPFs are everywhere, and cutting them out would be unrealistic.
Instead, he focuses on cooking more food himself, because he can monitor the ingredients he's using, and making healthy choices. He details how to do this in his new book 'Unprocess Your Life.'
Hobson shared three things that have helped him reduce his processed food intake with BI.
Part of the appeal of UPFs is that they are convenient, Hobson said. It's easier to pick up a premade sandwich or put a frozen pizza in the oven than to cook a meal from scratch.
So Hobson cooks some of his meals in batches to make his diet low in premade foods more convenient. "It's really nice when I know that I've got stuff in the freezer and that I don't have to worry about cooking," he said. He said it also makes him far less likely to order takeout food.
He likes to batch-cook one-pot recipes such as curries, stews, and tagines, dividing them up into single servings and placing them in microwave-safe containers. This way, they can be frozen and reheated in a microwave without being defrosted first, or whipped out of the fridge and eaten for lunch at work.
Another technique he uses to make home-cooking easier is meal-prepping.
He thinks about what recipes he wants to cook for the week and when he'll have time to cook them.
"If you want to make changes to your diet, you're going to have to dedicate a little bit of time to thinking about food. It doesn't just happen magically," he said.
Once he has picked out his recipes, he orders the food online, which he finds easier than rushing around the grocery store.
Making sauces like ketchup at home
Making his own cupboard sauces and some other cooking staples from scratch also helps Hobson avoid UPFs.
He enjoys having his morning eggs with hot sauce, so he makes his own using only ingredients you would find in a regular kitchen. He also makes his own ketchup, coconut milk, and nut butter.
When refrigerated and stored in a sealed container, his ketchup lasts for up to three weeks and his hot sauce for up to three months.
Read the original article on Business Insider