Processed foods: a little, a lot or not at all?

Before landing on our plates, the products we consume are mostly modified. To the point that we have every reason to wonder about their nutritional qualities.

In 1976, the film Wing or thigh, worn by Louis de Funès and Coluche, tackled the theme of industrial food. But Jacques Tricatel, the baron of junk food, ended up losing the game. Forty years later, ultra-reformed foods seem to have taken their revenge since they represent 50% to 80% of the commercial offer in our hypermarkets. Initially, food processing processes are developed for good reasons: for example, to make edible legumes to remove the pod or to pasteurize or freeze certain plants to eliminate pathogenic bacteria. Techniques such as salting and smoking of meats and cold cuts or the fermentation of dairy products aim to improve their taste quality. Technology is then serving foods to increase their flavor and make them safer.

Hunt the natural ...

But over time, another logic takes over. The commodities must obey the imperatives of profitability. The agri-food industry is looking to lower production costs and products are being destructured to the point of becoming "fake foods," as Dr. Anthony Fardet, a researcher in preventive and holistic nutrition, calls it. Among the most widely used methods are hydrogenation - the introduction of hydrogen into the fat to prevent it from rancidity - and extrusion cooking - which heats and compresses some flours and cereals to blow them. The addition of various additives, such as dyes and color stabilizers, flavorings, sweeteners, thickeners and emulsifiers, is also one of the common industrial processes.

The worst and the best!

Difficult for the consumer, even the most savvy, to determine the level of processing of his favorite foods. To see more clearly, Carlos Monteiro, professor of Brazilian nutrition, established in 2010 an international classification called Nova. It differentiates four food groups according to their degree of "remodeling".

  • First group: raw or natural foods. Namely seeds, fruits, leaves, stems and roots of plants, meats and egg and milk-type animal matter, mushrooms and seaweed.
  • Second group: culinary ingredients. They are obtained from products of the first group according to mechanical or chemical processes. Vegetable oils, flours, salt, sugars and vinegar fall into this category.
  • Third group: processed foods. They are made with foods from the first group to which is added an ingredient of the second group (oil, vinegar, etc.) and sometimes also additives to retain their sensory properties. Wine, beer and bread are part of it.
  • Fourth group: ultra-processed foods. These contain five ingredients, often much more. Inside this very large ensemble, packaged brioches and breads, sweet and appetizing snacks, snack cakes, recomposed meats such as dumplings, nuggets, sausages or ham, ready meals, frozen or fresh , hamburgers and hot dogs, yogurts and dairy desserts, sweets and candy bars, ice creams and sodas, spreads, reconstituted fish and margarine.

Attention danger

By dint of transformation, deprived of their original properties, these foods contain only empty calories, which means that they are deprived of their fibers, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, protective micronutrients and essential to the proper functioning of the body. In addition, their texture is formulated to "capture" our palate. They are full of sugars - like fructose syrup - and hydrogenated fats, ingredients that are not satiating because they are ultra-digestible, unlike fibers and proteins, which take longer to assimilate. They disturb the normal balance of the gut microbiota. For the same reasons, they are also hyperglycemic. This poor nutritional profile and their high content of toxic additives accelerates the emergence of certain chronic conditions such as hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes and promotes cardiovascular disease. The National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), the University Paris-XIII and the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) have published a study which also establishes the correlation between ultra-processed foods and Cancer. According to her, a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the overall diet is associated with an increase of more than 10% of the probabilities of developing this type of disease.

Thanks to Dr. Anthony Fardet, researcher in preventive and holistic nutrition, and author of "Stop ultra-processed foods! Let's eat true" (Thierry Souccar edition).

Video: Understanding Carbs (November 2019).

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