What do breakfast cereals, soft drinks, fast food, packaged cupcakes, and frozen dinners have in common? Aside from the fact that most of us find these foods delicious, they’re all considered ultra-processed foods.
Now, you’ve heard of processed foods, those foods that have somehow been altered from their original state, such as grain to bread or peanuts to peanut butter. But not all processed foods are unhealthy–think whole-grain bread, frozen veggies, and milk, all of which are processed in some way before they find their way onto the grocery store shelves. Ultra-processed foods, on the other hand, can literally kill you.
Ultra-processed foods, according to a study published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism Research, are those that contain, in addition to sugar, salt, oils, and fats, “food substances not used in culinary preparations.” These include artificial colors and flavors, chemical preservatives, and additives that create pleasant textures. Ultra-processed foods are the ones you really need to watch out for, and here’s why.