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Looking for New Years Resolutions? Review your UPF intake.

In an era dominated by convenience and speed, the reliance on ultra-processed foods (UPF) has skyrocketed, reshaping our dietary habits and, consequently, our health. The eye-opening book "Ultra Processed People" by Chris van Tulleken sheds light on the alarming reality that 60% of the average Western diet now consists of these highly processed and often nutritionally deficient products. This revelation alone should prompt us to reconsider our choices and strive for a more balanced and wholesome approach to nutrition.

Over consumption of UPF has been linked to poor health
Over consumption of UPF has been linked to poor health


Van Tulleken's "Ultra Processed People" delves into the intricate relationship between our modern diet and its impact on our well-being. We are bombarded with advertisements on UPF attempting to convince us that some of them are healthy – but when was the last time you saw an advert for bananas? There is evidence to suggest that UPFs influence our gut microbiome; our mouth shape; our mental health. Through compelling anecdotes, research findings, and expert insights, van Tulleken conveys so very well the consequences of a diet dominated by UPF.


The term "ultra-processed" refers to foods that undergo multiple industrial processes, often involving the addition of preservatives, artificial flavours and other additives. To simplify, he uses the definition “food containing ingredients you wouldn’t find in your kitchen cupboard.” Typical products include sugary snacks, pre-packaged meals, cereals and shop-bought bread.


The aforementioned statistic speaks volumes about the profound shift in our eating habits. There is mounting evidence that such a high consumption of UPF has significant implications for our health. These foods are often energy-dense but nutrient-poor, leading to overconsumption of empty calories and a deficiency in essential vitamins and minerals. Our bodies have evolved to thrive on whole, natural foods, and the deviation from this ancestral diet has been linked to a myriad of health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and metabolic disorders.


Although van Tulleken accepts it would be incredibly difficult to totally eradicate UPF from our modern diets, we should be aiming to reduce our reliance on them and give a greater priority to our health and well-being. When choosing what to eat, ask yourself questions such as “is this product designed to nourish me?” Van Tulleken advocates for a return to a diet richer in wholesome, minimally processed foods—fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These nutrient-dense options provide the vital elements our bodies need to function optimally and maintain a state of well-being.


By embracing a more balanced and varied diet, we can address the nutritional deficiencies associated with excessive UPF consumption. It's not about deprivation but rather a conscious choice to nourish our bodies with foods that support our overall health.


If you want something to review this new year, take a serious look at the volume of UPF you are consuming. It is now time recognise their impact  on our health and take proactive steps towards a more balanced and nutritious way of eating. Embracing wholesome, minimally processed foods is not just a trend; it's a crucial step toward a healthier future for individuals, society and the planet as a whole.


Read the book. It’ll change the way you think about what you eat.



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