Ultraprocessing veggies makes them bad for you

"Ultra-processing" plants removes their health benefits. Surprise! The research, published in The Lancet, found that meat substitutes, fruit juices and pastries containing "ultra-processed" veggies increases the likelihood of strokes and heart attacks, while minimally processed ones have "protective" effects.

Ultra-processed foods have faced intense scrutiny from health authorities in recent years. What's unusual about the new study is that it zeroed in on the health effects of ultra-processed foods that begin as plants, comparing them with minimally processed plant foods. Given that plant-based foods are generally healthy in their natural state, the research suggests that there's something uniquely damaging about ultra-processing that changes a food in a way that can harm a person's health long term.


Ultra-processing strips away health-promoting nutrients, replaces them with salt, sugar and fat, and destroys the food's internal structure or "food matrix," which causes our bodies to absorb the food more rapidly. This results in less satiety and in some cases higher blood-sugar levels. During industrial processing, foods are often subjected to extreme pressures and temperatures, which can transform additives into harmful new compounds. Two well-known compounds that are generated during food processing, acrolein and acrylamide, have been found to promote cardiovascular disease. Plant foods that are not ultra-processed contain fiber, polyphenols, phytosterols and a wide array of compounds that reduce inflammation and promote overall health.

I found myself frustrated by the way "ultra-processed" is described in detail but defined rather vaguely. This smells of "I wrote up a press release and called the scientist it told me to, my only quoted source" and it turns out that there is quite a controversy over what "ultra-processed" means. You can read all about on Wikipedia, which offers six different definitions.

Carlos Monteiro, working with a team of researchers at the University of São Paulo, first published the concept of ultra-processed foods:

Ultra-processed foods are basically confections of group 2 ingredients [substances extracted from whole foods], typically combined with sophisticated use of additives, to make them edible, palatable, and habit-forming. They have no real resemblance to group 1 foods [minimally processed foods], although they may be shaped, labelled and marketed so as to seem wholesome and 'fresh'. Unlike the ingredients included in group 2, ultra-processed foods are typically not consumed with or as part of minimally processed foods, dishes and meals. On the contrary, they are designed to be ready-to-eat (sometimes with addition of liquid such as milk) or ready-to-heat, and are often consumed alone or in combination (such as savoury snacks with soft drinks, bread with burgers).

This definition is as much social as one based on specific ingredients, which makes the understanding of ultra-processed foods highly intuitive, even among untrained consumers. A letter responding to Monteiro's 2009 commentary suggested that the definition 'lacks precision', since it lacks the measurable definitions of traditional food science. Because of this, researchers disagree whether the definition can form a valid basis for scientific control. Researchers have developed a quantitative definition for hyperpalatable food, but not for ultra-processed food.

My rule, more a guideline, really, is "don't eat anything containing an ingredient with more than n syllables" where n is 4 except when it's that amazing Motor City Detroit pizza you can get at Target and for that I'll guzzle all the Glucolactonized Sodium Psychopentasiloxane they can shovel in me.