Open Thread Friday 2-21-2020
Finding a basic diet plan for the average person is actually quite complicated. Lots of advice is available and much of it contradictory.
This program originally developed in Brazil about 10 years ago is a good foundation. It is not complicated. Simple adjustments can be made to accommodate food sensitivities, medical conditions and many of the dietary suggestions that have been offered in multiple C99 diaries.
Buy, eat and cook with primarily unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Avoid or minimize ultra-processed foods.
What characterises ultra-processed foods is that they are so altered that it can be hard to recognise the underlying ingredients. These are concoctions of concoctions, engineered from ingredients that are already highly refined, such as cheap vegetable oils, flours, whey proteins and sugars, which are then whipped up into something more appetising with the help of industrial additives such as emulsifiers.
Ultra-processed foods (or UPF) now account for more than half of all the calories eaten in the UK and US, and other countries are fast catching up. UPFs are now simply part of the flavour of modern life. These foods are convenient, affordable, highly profitable, strongly flavoured, aggressively marketed – and on sale in supermarkets everywhere. The foods themselves may be familiar, yet the term “ultra-processed” is less so.
The concept of UPFs was born in the early years of this millennium when a Brazilian scientist called Carlos Monteiro noticed a paradox. People appeared to be buying less sugar, yet obesity and type 2 diabetes were going up.
To Monteiro, the bag of sugar on the kitchen counter is a healthy sign, not because sugar itself has any goodness in it, but because it belongs to a person who cooks. Monteiro’s data suggested to him that the households who were still buying sugar were also the ones who were still making the old Brazilian dishes such as rice and beans.
As he sees it, there are four basic kinds of food, graded by the degree to which they are processed. Taken together, these four groups form what Monteiro calls the Nova system (meaning a new star).
The first time the nutrition researcher Kevin Hall heard anyone talk about ultra-processed food, he thought it was “a nonsense definition”. It was 2016 and Hall – who studies how people put on weight at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at Bethesda, Maryland – was at a conference chatting with a representative from PepsiCo who scornfully mentioned the new Brazilian set of food guidelines and specifically the directive to avoid ultra-processed foods. Hall agreed that this was a silly rule because, as far as he was concerned, obesity had nothing to do with food processing
At the end of 2018, Hall and his colleagues became the first scientists to test – in randomised controlled conditions – whether diets high in ultra-processed foods could actually cause overeating and weight gain.
Hall’s study provided evidence that an ultra-processed diet – with its soft textures and strong flavours – really does cause over-eating and weight gain, regardless of the sugar content. Over just two weeks, the subjects gained an average of 1kg. This is a far more dramatic result than you would expect to see over such a short space of time (especially since the volunteers rated both types of food as equally pleasant).
After Hall’s study was published in July 2019, it was impossible to dismiss Monteiro’s proposition that the rise of UPFs increases the risk of obesity. Monteiro told me that as a result of Hall’s study, he and his colleagues in Brazil found they were suddenly being taken seriously.
Now that we have evidence of a link between diets high in UPFs and obesity, it seems clear that a healthy diet should be based on fresh, home-cooked food.
Group 1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods
Unprocessed (or natural) foods are edible parts of plants (seeds, fruits, leaves, stems, roots) or of animals (muscle, offal, eggs, milk), and also fungi, algae and water, after separation from nature.
Minimally processed foods are natural foods altered by processes that include removal of inedible or unwanted parts, and drying, crushing, grinding, fractioning, filtering, roasting, boiling, non-alcoholic fermentation, pasteurization, refrigeration, chilling, freezing, placing in containers and vacuum-packaging. These processes are designed to preserve natural foods, to make them suitable for storage, or to make them safe or edible or more pleasant to consume. Many unprocessed or minimally processed foods are prepared and cooked at home or in restaurant kitchens in combination with processed culinary ingredients as dishes or meals.
Group 2. Processed culinary ingredients
Processed culinary ingredients, such as oils, butter, sugar and salt, are substances derived from Group 1 foods or from nature by processes that include pressing, refining, grinding, milling and drying. The purpose of such processes is to make durable products that are suitable for use in home and restaurant kitchens to prepare, season and cook Group 1 foods and to make with them varied and enjoyable hand-made dishes and meals, such as stews, soups and broths, salads, breads, preserves, drinks and desserts. They are not meant to be consumed by themselves, and are normally used in combination with Group 1 foods to make freshly prepared drinks, dishes and meals.
Group 3. Processed foods
Processed foods, such as bottled vegetables, canned fish, fruits in syrup, cheeses and freshly made breads, are made essentially by adding salt, oil, sugar or other substances from Group 2 to Group 1 foods.
Processes include various preservation or cooking methods, and, in the case of breads and cheese, non-alcoholic fermentation. Most processed foods have two or three ingredients, and are recognizable as modified versions of Group 1 foods. They are edible by themselves or, more usually, in combination with other foods. The purpose of processing here is to increase the durability of Group 1 foods, or to modify or enhance their sensory qualities.
Group 4. Ultra-processed foods
Ultra-processed foods, such as soft drinks, sweet or savoury packaged snacks, reconstituted meat products and pre-prepared frozen dishes, are not modified foods but formulations made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods and additives, with little if any intact Group 1 food.
Ingredients of these formulations usually include those also used in processed foods, such as sugars, oils, fats or salt. But ultra-processed products also include other sources of energy and nutrients not normally used in culinary preparations. Some of these are directly extracted from foods, such as casein, lactose, whey and gluten.
Many are derived from further processing of food constituents, such as hydrogenated or interesterified oils, UN, NOVA and the trouble with ultra-processing 9 hydrolysed proteins, soya protein isolate, maltodextrin, invert sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
Additives in ultra-processed foods include some also used in processed foods, such as preservatives, antioxidants and stabilizers. Classes of additives found only in ultra-processed products include those used to imitate or enhance the sensory qualities of foods or to disguise unpalatable aspects of the final product. These additives include dyes and other colours, colour stabilizers; flavours, flavour enhancers, non-sugar sweeteners; and processing aids such as carbonating, firming, bulking and anti-bulking, de-foaming, anti-caking and glazing agents, emulsifiers, sequestrants and humectants.
Read the ingredient list on all your food purchases. Annoying I know, but familiar products like cottage cheese are now often ultra processed foods. My favorite how sauce added a stabilizer and am back to using Tabasco. May you enjoy good eating and improved health.