You are hungry, so you slip a quick snack into the microwave. Quicker and easier than cooking a meal on the stove, and a lot less mess. These quick-open processed foods have become a major part of our diet and our culture.
These foods were novelties to us but have become a part of younger generations’ daily lives. These youngsters grew up in the world of microwaves: want it, nuke it, and eat it now. Parents also enjoy the ease of quick, easy clean-up meals that simplify their lives and make it easier to maintain a career.
As we get older, buying pre-made foods becomes even easier than preparing and cleaning up oven-cooked meals. My friends with health conditions and disabilities, who find cooking difficult, love the ease of fast food. Despite the convenience, recent reports highlight the danger of regularly eating utra-processed foods.
Foods categorized as being ultra-processed include candies, cookies, cakes and pastries, energy bars, ice cream, packaged snacks, processed meats, and ready-made meals. Examples of processed meats includes commercially produced bacon, lunch meats, and sausages. Also included are breaded or flavored packaged meats like chicken wings, flavored chicken, and much more.
Most meals included in the ready-to-eat category, such as TV dinners and other frozen meals, are heated in the oven or microwave. Most recently, microwavable meals seem to be the overwhelming majority, maximizing our time by minimizing cook & clean-up time.
Unfortunately, reports have surfaced over the past several years warning that processed foods have serious health dangers. Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a study from France investigated the health effects of ultra-processed foods, which they define as ready-to-eat or -heat foods “which are manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes.”
Sara G Miller’s Live Science article expands on the additives in these foods and identify multiple ingredients. Not only are the usual suspect on the ingredients list (sugar, salt, oils, and fats) but also additives to add flavor, color, and adjust the sweetness or consistency of products. “They may be tasty, but so-called ultra-processed foods are not what the doctor ordered. Yet, these foods — which are high in salt, sugar and other additives — are an increasingly large part of people’s diets.”
A JAMA Internal Medicine article by Rachel Rattner reports finding about the connection between ultra-processed foods and disease, stating “Ultra-processed foods consumption has largely increased during the past several decades and may drive a growing burden of non-communicable disease deaths” (‘Non-communicable’ diseases are those that aren’t infectious and can’t be spread from person to person.) The article reports on a relationship between eating ultra-processed foods and a higher risk of death over a 7-year period. Researchers hypothesize that these foods could contribute to a shorter life span in a number of ways — for example, by increasing a person’s risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.”
We live in a different world today: fast, busy, hectic, never stopping. Besides this, people are living longer than ever before. To continue this trend we need to remember the importance of our diets. Fast food means faster to the grave – so take the time to eat healthier, live healthier, and live longer.