The average person in the UK consumes over half of their daily energy intake from ultra-processed foods. Eating too much highly-processed food like popular breakfast cereals, white bread, sweets, ready meals, takeaways, snacks, and crisps is bad for our health. The problem is that these processed foods are attractive to customers as they are marketed as cheap, convenient, and often as healthy.
However, the truth about them is different. Processed foods are packed with sugar, fat and salt, and they often contain artificial additives like colourants and preservatives to keep their shel life longer.
We already know that these foods are linked to poor health, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Now, a new study from Researchers at Imperial College London suggests that highly-produced foods may be associated with an increased risk of cancer. How can we reduce the intake of processed food? Is there any easy way to ditch processed foods?
It may be hard at the beginning as sugary and salty foods are addictive. But if you want to stay healthy and in good shape, you should avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar, salt and white flour and instead buy more unprocessed, nutritious whole foods for your pantry.
Here's a list of easy healthy swaps.
Replace breakfast cereals from the supermarket with wholegrain cereals.
Swap sugar-loaded breakfast cereals with wholegrain cereals, oats, natural muesli and bran flakes. These products are rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins. You can create your own muesli by adding dried fruit, nuts and seeds. You can buy healthy ingredients online in bulk which will make them cheaper, and keep them in your kitchen cupboard for months. This way, you will keep the good ingredients always at hand it will be easier to create easy healthy dishes at home and avoid processed takeaways.
Add some fresh vegetables and fruit to your daily meal plan. It will require to spend more time preparing your meals and cooking more, but you will see the benefits soon - better digestion, glowing healthy skin, weight loss and better overall health.
Replace crisps with nuts, dried fruit and seeds.
Crisps are heavily processed fatty and salty snacks. The worst you can eat. Salty fried foods are linked to high blood pressure, obesity and even cancer. Nuts will make a great snack alternative. They are rich in essential nutrients, fibre, minerals, and vitamins. They will keep you satisfied, full for longer and far from other snack cravings.
Replace white bread with wholegrain bread.
We buy ready bread in the supermarkets simply because we lack time to make it ourselves. However, keep in mind that the bread from supermarkets is made with the lowest quality cheap flour, added sugar and a lot of salt. It will also contain additives and preservatives to extend its shelf life. Even when this bread looks freshly baked, it most likely arrived there frozen and was only deforested and warmed up.
Of course, the best option is to make your own bread at home, but who has time for that, right? Well, if you are so lucky and have time to make your own bread at home, replace white flour with wholemeal flour.
If you buy bread in bakeries and shops, look for wholegrain bread instead of white bread. You can also opt for wholegrain crisp breads or oatcakes instead.
Replace sugary soft drinks with water, tea, fermented drinks or natural juice.
Instead of drinking sugar-load drinks, try to get used to mineral water. You can also choose natural teas - leaf tea, herbal tea and fruit infusion tea. Another great option for a healthy drink is natural juice and fermented beverages such as kombucha or kefir with natural probiotics. Look for those that are as natural as possible, without added sugar or artificial flavours.
Swap processed meats with fruits and veggies.
Processed meats like sausages, bacon and ham are the number one cancer-risk foods, and you should avoid them at any cost. Instead, you should add more plant-based products to your diet. Look for lentils, beans, chickpeas and whole grains, which are rich in protein and can be a great meat replacement.