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Nutrition & Fitness Newsletter

Ultra-Processed, Ultra-Bad

image Hot Dogs

The latest research results are coming in on the affects of ultra-processed foods on our health, digestion and weight.  More recently you've probably been more familiar with the term "processed foods", many packaged and fast-food are considered processed - much of which falls into the category of "ultra-processed".  Let's look further into what ultra-processed foods are and how they may or may not play a role in your diet and health.

  • What is Ultra-Processed? — Many popular packaged foods are in this category - breads, cereals, snack chips and frozen meals.  They may have unusual combinations of flavors, with additives and manipulated textures that are not natural (found in nature).  For me, the foremost example comes from the unusual food flavors in Doritos chips which is far from the basic corn tortilla chip (ground corn, water and salt).  Ever look at the ingredients on a bag of Doritos?  Ultra-processed foods go through industrial processing - ingredients are exposed to intense pressures and high heat that further disrupts the cellular structure of many of the starches.  Then this product is extruded into a variety of shapes.  When eaten, the end product is easily absorbed, a sort of a "predigested" food.  This processed product creates shelf-stable and ready-to-eat foods.  It's easily chewed and eaten without sticking to teeth - like an "ultra-fast food".  Typically lacking in fiber, it is high in fat and sodium (examples: bacon, hot dogs, pizza), high in fat and sugar (examples: cake, ice cream, brownies), or carbohydrates and sodium (examples: chips, crackers, pretzels).  Additionally, there are more calories per bite versus unprocessed foods.  Keep in mind, these are not foods that are home-cooked or baked using well recognized ingredients.  Currently, approximately 50% of calories in the food supply come from ultra-process foods.

  • Why Ultra-Processed is Bad — After all the processing and manipulation of these foods, there are altered effects on the body compared to how the body digests whole or unprocessed foods.  Including, accelerated speed of digestion and absorption that can led to greater spikes in blood sugars and insulin levels.  Plus, having broken links between nutrients that may present foods that the digestive system may not recognize.  This is a delivery system for excess salt, sugar, fat, flavors and additives.  These enhanced flavors and textures may trigger compulsive eating and cravings leading to an inability to regulate quantity of foods eaten.  The ultra-processed foods are easier to consume (chew and swallow) which can lead to over-eating.  Studies has shown when participants were given ultra-processed foods they ate more, ate faster and absorbed more calories.   However, some food technologists would disagree, categorizing this type of food as affordable, easily accessible, and less prone to food-safety issues.  Adding that they can be protein enriched, and fortified with vitamins and minerals.

  • Potential Consequences —Given what we now know about ultra-processed foods - potential changes in appetite, affects on hormones that manage hunger and satiety (feeling full).  Such changes can lead to weight gain and ultimately obesity.  Plus, ingesting high levels of sugar, fat and sodium - all of which increases risk of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.  The possible influences on the absorption of the nutrients and how the body recognizes these nutrients can lead to nutritional deficiencies.  Other concerns are gastrointestinal (GI) issues with lack of fiber and how the GI recognizes this new form of food. This overly hygienic food may result in changes or imbalances to the gut bacteria.

  • What to Do — Seems practical and straight forward to eat a mostly whole foods diet; one where the foods are easily recognized in nature.  However, temptation, availability and convenience can make ultra-processed foods an easier choice.  Eating an unprocessed or whole foods diet does require more time, money and some cooking skills.  Try small steps, look for foods with easily recognized ingredients in the grocery store.  Many food producers are making meals or meal kits with whole foods ingredients.  Start by reading labels and asking questions about ingredients and processing at places where you get your meals.  Thankfully most of us in the United States don't need to rely on a ultra-processed diet to meet our caloric needs, but they can play an occasional role in our diet when food options and time are limited.

Here are few reasons to see a nutritionist/personal trainer/health coach: relieve tension & stress in the body, properly train or progress in an activity, improve your microbiome, assess nutrient intake, disease prevention through evidence-based diets, and exercise, maximize exercise performance, improve sleep quality, enhance mental clarity, optimize digestion and nutrient absorption, establish long-term healthy habits, meal planning for a whole foods diet and eat in a way to sustain the planet.  Please consider Sheri for nutrition counseling and/or fitness appointments to help you develop a healthier lifestyle for you and the planet. 


Collagen Supplements Accelerates Deforestation

The popularity of collagen supplements has led to consequences for our tropical forests.  With increased demand for collagen, the source, which is cattle requires more land to grow and raise. Consequentially it is accelerating the deforestation of rain forests.  For the sake of our environment, consider a vegetarian collagen supplement or rely on balanced diet with good sources of protein to meet your nutrient needs.  Currently there is little research that supports the need for collagen supplements.

Sheri is a Certified Nutritionist with a master's degree in nutrition, with over 15 years of clinical counseling experience, an ACE-certified Personal Trainer with advanced certifications in medical exercise, senior fitness and health coaching.  All nutrition consultations include exercise guidance, dietary analysis and meal plans to meet your individual lifestyle, calorie and nutritional needs.

Free introductory 15-minute appointments are also available.

To schedule an appointment with Sheri Mar, email:  or call:  206.789.6440

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