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The Dangers of Ultra Processed Food: Why Lifestyle Medicine Urges You to Cut it Out

ultra processed food and lifestyle medicine

Welcome to our Lifestyle Medicine Clinic blog! Today, we're delving into a topic that affects many of our daily lives: ultra processed food. As a Lifestyle Medicine Doctor, I've seen firsthand the impact that our diet choices can have on our health and wellbeing. Let's explore what ultra processed food is, why it's detrimental to our health, and how you can make positive changes starting today.

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Why Is It So Important?

In today's fast-paced world, where convenience often takes precedence, understanding the impact of ultra processed food is more critical than ever. Understanding the impact of ultra processed food is crucial because it directly affects our health and wellbeing. These foods, filled with additives, unhealthy fats, and sugars, contribute to a host of health problems including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers. By recognising the dangers of ultra processed foods, we empower ourselves to make informed choices about what we put into our bodies, paving the way for a healthier future.

Why You Should Cut Ultra Processed Food from Your Diet

1. Health Consequences

  • Nutritional Deficiency: Ultra processed foods are typically low in essential nutrients, leading to deficiencies despite high caloric intake.

  • Weight Gain and Obesity: The empty calories and addictive properties of these foods contribute to weight gain and obesity, which are precursors to many chronic diseases.

  • Chronic Diseases: Regular consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

  • Mental Health: Poor diet can impact mental health, contributing to depression and anxiety.

2. Impact on Children

  • Development: Children exposed to a diet high in ultra processed foods may have stunted growth and development.

  • Behavioural Issues: Some studies suggest a link between processed food consumption and behavioural problems in children.

3. Environmental Impact

  • Resource Intensive: The production of ultra processed foods requires significant resources such as water, land, and energy.

  • Waste: Packaging from these foods contributes to environmental pollution.

Types of Ultra Processed Foods

The term 'ultra-processed foods' originates from the NOVA food classification system which categorises foods into four groups based on their level of processing:

  1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods: These are foods like fruits, vegetables, milk, fish, pulses, eggs, nuts, and seeds. They have no added ingredients and are closest to their natural state.

  2. Processed ingredients: This category includes items like salt, sugar, and oils. These are typically used as additions to other foods rather than consumed on their own.

  3. Processed foods: These are foods made by combining items from groups 1 and 2. Examples are jam, pickles, tinned fruits and vegetables, homemade breads, and cheeses. They are altered in ways that home cooks could replicate.

  4. Ultra-processed foods: These foods have five or more ingredients and often contain additives not typically used in home cooking, such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours. They also tend to have a long shelf life.

Here's a list of common examples of ultra processed foods:

  • Sugary Beverages: sodas, energy drinks, and sweetened juices.

  • Packaged Snacks: chips, cookies, candy bars, and sugary cereals.

  • Instant Foods: Instant noodles and soups.

  • Fast Foods: burgers, fries, and pizza.

  • Frozen Meals: pre-packaged dinners high in sodium and unhealthy fats.

  • Processed Meats: hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats.

  • Spreads: Margarine and other spreads.

  • Cereals: Breakfast cereals with added sugars and artificial flavours.

Empowering Ourselves for Better Health: Taking Action

Knowledge is power when it comes to our health. By understanding the pitfalls of ultra processed food, we can make informed choices for ourselves and our families. Here's how:

1. Read Labels

  • Look for ingredients you recognise and understand. Avoid products with long lists of additives and preservatives.

2. Cook at Home

  • Prepare meals using whole, fresh ingredients. This not only ensures better nutrition but also fosters a deeper connection to our food.

3. Educate Others

  • Share this knowledge with friends and family. Together, we can create a ripple effect of healthier choices.

4. Seek Support

  • Utilise resources like our Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, where personalised guidance and support are available.

Embracing a Healthier Future

At our Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, we're committed to helping you navigate the complexities of nutrition and lifestyle choices. By cutting out ultra processed foods and embracing whole, nutrient-dense options, you're taking a proactive step towards a healthier future.

What a Health Check Can Show You

A health check is a crucial first step in understanding your current health status. Here's what it can reveal:

  • Blood Sugar Levels: Indicators of how your body is processing sugars, crucial for preventing diabetes.

  • Cholesterol Levels: High cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease.

  • Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a silent killer often linked to poor diet choices.

  • Waist circumference: Insight into abdominal fat levels linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease

  • Body Fat Percentage: Proportion of fat to lean mass in the body, providing insight into overall health and risk for obesity-related conditions.


Making the choice to cut out ultra processed food from your diet is a powerful step towards a healthier, happier life. By embracing whole, nutrient-dense foods and utilising the resources available at our Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, you're investing in a future of wellness. Your body will thank you for it!

Start Your Journey with us today. Click Here to see our services.

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