Beans on toast IS good for you! Top nutrition body warns ultra-processed foods are being wrongly villainized and can make-up a healthy diet (and fish fingers are given the all clear, too!)
- Ultra-processed foods have been demonised for raising the risk of weight gain
- But now food experts have set out which options can be ‘part of a healthy diet’
- Baked beans, fish fingers, fruit yoghurts and wholemeal bread all make the cut
Ultra-processed foods have been demonised for making us fat, giving us type 2 diabetes and raising our risk of cancer.
But now food experts have set out which options can be ‘part of a healthy diet’.
Baked beans, fish fingers and wholemeal bread all make the cut, according to the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF).
Tomato-based pasta sauces, wholegrain breakfast cereals and fruit yoghurts are also ‘healthier processed foods’, the charity said.
The BNF even admits they are a source of ‘some important nutrients’ as well as being ‘convenient and affordable’.
Baked beans, fish fingers and wholemeal bread can be ‘part of a healthy diet’ and are a source of ‘some important nutrients’ according to the British Nutrition Foundation
Food experts have set out which options can be ‘part of a healthy diet’. Baked beans, fish fingers and wholemeal bread all make the cut, according to the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). Tomato-based pasta sauces, wholegrain breakfast cereals and fruit yoghurts are also ‘healthier processed foods’, the charity said
Anything edible made with colourings, sweeteners and preservatives automatically falls into the ultra-processed category, according to the Nova food classification system.
It was created by Brazilian scientist Carlos Monteiro in 2009 as a way to group foods in relation to the processes they undergo. It has since been used by hundreds of scientists to examine the link between eating habits and disease.
Dozens of studies have warned of the risk of eating too much ultra-processed foods, which include biscuits, cakes, crisps, ready meals, sausages, chips and soft drinks.
But some experts have warned that the label is vague and paints ‘perfectly fine’ food as ‘unhealthy’.
Some nations, such as France, Belgium and Brazil, have used the ultra-processed in official guidance, advising that people should reduce the proportion of these foods in their diet.
WHAT ARE ULTRA-PROCESSED FOODS?
Ultra-processed foods are high in added fat, sugar and salt, low in protein and fibre and contain artificial colourings, sweeteners and preservatives.
The term covers food that contains ingredients that a person wouldn’t add when cooking at home — such as chemicals, colourings and preservatives.
Ready meals, ice cream, sausages, deep-fried chicken and ketchup are some of the best-loved examples.
They are different to processed foods, which are processed to make them last longer or enhance their taste, such as cured meat, cheese and fresh bread.
Ultra-processed foods, such as sausages, cereals, biscuits and fizzy drinks, are formulations made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods and additives.
They contain little or no unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fruit, vegetables, seeds and eggs.
The foods are usually packed with sugars, oils, fats and salt, as well as additives, such as preservatives, antioxidants and stabilisers.
Ultra-processed foods are often presented as ready-to-consume, taste good and are cheap.
Source: Open Food Facts
But the UK and US have so far avoided this, instead focusing guidance on calories, salt and sugar and providing advice to consume fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.
Now, the BNF has published a position statement, urging the Government against including ultra-processed foods in national dietary guidelines.
It warned that there is a ‘lack of agreed definition’ around what foods fall into the category and concerns about its ‘usefulness as a tool to identify healthier products’.
For example, foods such as wholemeal bread, wholegrain breakfast cereals and baked beans are also usually classified as ultra-processed but ‘these can be a convenient and affordable source of some important nutrients’, the BNF said.
Bridget Benelam, a BNF spokesperson said: ‘For many of us when we get home after a busy day, foods like baked beans, wholemeal toast, fish fingers or ready-made pasta sauces are an affordable way to get a balanced meal on the table quickly.
‘These may be classed as ultra-processed but can still be part of a healthy diet.’
She added: ‘It’s great if you can cook from scratch when you have time, but I know for me, as a working parent it’s often not an option.
‘We need to make healthy eating easier and more affordable, not more difficult and expensive.
‘Choosing healthier processed foods is one way that can help people fit healthy eating into their lives’.
The BNF also released the results of a survey, which quizzed more than 2,000 Brits on ultra-processed foods.
It showed that nearly half of people (46 per cent) had heard of the category and a third were trying to reduce these foods from their diet.
Ready meals, vegetarian meat alternatives, shop-bought burgers, cereal with added sugar and shop-bought sausages were the foods most widely-recognised as ultra-processed, results revealed.
However, fewer people classified baked beans (nine per cent), low-fat fruit yogurts (10 per cent), ice cream (14 per cent and sliced bread (19 per cent) as ultra-processed.
The survey also found that most people agreed that it was better to cook from scratch than to use processed foods (68per cent).
But nearly half agreed that a healthy balanced diet can include some processed foods and that processed foods can be convenient to save time preparing food.
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