Tips on why to avoid ultra-processed food, what to eat instead

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - A recent study says eating a diet high in ultra-processed foods can lead to weight gain.

Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Scott Butsch said results show a difference in weight gain, depending on what people ate.

“One diet was ultra-processed, and the other one wasn’t processed at all," Butsch said. "They looked at these people for two weeks, and they changed the diet halfway through, so all of the individuals were on both of the diets. in the end, they found that those who ate the ultra-processed foods gained weight."

The study looked at a group of adults in their 30s. Not only did people gain weight on the ultra-processed diet, they actually ended up consuming an extra 500 calories each day they were on the diet.

How do we know something is ultra-processed?

If the ingredients are a long list of things you can't pronounce, it's probably very processed.

Examples of ultra-processed:
Soda
Chips
Boxed cake mix
Instant noodles
Chicken nuggets
Hot dogs

Consider swaps like:
Dark chocolate for candy bars
Oatmeal, sweetened with honey instead of cereal
Or instead of energy bars -- try fresh-squeezed juice or DIY granola

The best ways to avoid these ultra-processed foods entirely?

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.
Check nutrition labels for short lists of ingredients.
Cook at home more.
If you want to be really strict -- try the Whole30 diet -- a 30-day diet that eliminates sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy.

Butsch said filling up on more fruits, vegetables and whole grains is the best way to go.

He said there is a biological reaction that happens when we eat certain foods. The fiber found in vegetables and whole grains is not easily digested, so when it gets to the colon, the bacteria in the gut is improved. 

Whereas, when we eat ultra-processed foods that are low in fiber, the breakdown of the foods in our digestive tract is changed.

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