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The Lowdown on Ultra-Processed Foods

By Kate Gardner

Every few months, a new study comes out that looks at the effects of ultra-processed foods on our health. They're not good news. According to, the latest two studies on ultra-processed foods confirm the idea that they are really, really bad for us. These studies show that ultra-processed foods are connected to increased cancer risks, weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, and an overall higher chance of dying. 

I've been in denial. When I first read about the health problems connected to ultra-processed foods, I thought I wasn't eating too many. Surely, these were the worst of the worst foods -- things like Flamin' Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Unfortunately, while those are two fine examples of ultra-processed foods, there are a ton of others and my kitchen is filled with them. 

Ultra-Processed Foods

Lots of food is processed. The word "processed" simply means that the food has been changed in some way so you can eat it.  For example, frozen corn is processed, but not very much. Ultra-processed foods, on the other hand, have been changed and added to a lot. helps break down the difference between processed and ultra-processed foods. 

  • Meats - Lunch meats are ultra-processed and connected to a higher risk of cancer. 

  • Breakfast foods - Most cereals, cereal bars, and french toast sticks (a favorite in our house) are all on the bad list, with refined flours and lots of sugar. 

  • Snacks - Any snack with more than a handful of real ingredients qualifies as ultra-processed. This goes for savory snacks, such as chips and crackers, as well as sweet snacks like cookies, snack cakes, and snack bars. 

  • Frozen and pre-packaged meals - These quick-and-easy dinner options are full of added sugar, salt, fat, and preservatives.

Cutting Back 

I'll be honest, this whole discussion bums me out. I'm a busy mom. I need easy snacks, but I don't want to set my kids up for a lifetime of health problems by tossing a granola bar at them every day. And no one is saying we have to get rid of ultra-processed foods entirely, we just need to cut back (way, way back). 

According to all sources, the best thing to do to cut down on ultra-processed foods is to make your own food from scratch, at home, using whole ingredients. Even unhealthier options, like cookies, can be a little better when you make them at home and can control what goes into them. Making most of your food from scratch can be pretty daunting, so focus on one thing at a time. 

Me? I'll be tackling snack foods first. 

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Atlanta, Ga. 

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