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Highly Palatable Foods Cause Weight Gain

Highly Palatable Foods Cause Weight Gain

And what to do about it!


We've talked about ultra-processed foods (UPF) before, but it's worth revisiting now that summer road trips and outings are in full swing. Unfortunately, the quick and convenient foods for these occasions are often highly-processed.  This includes everything from sugary drinks, chicken nuggets and potato chips to candy bars, cheese crackers, and ice cream treats. They continue to be a growing concern for health professionals because these foods are easy to eat and often contain high amounts of added sugars, salt, saturated and trans fats.  Generally, they also contain artificial flavors and preservatives too. When consumed in large quantities, these foods can have several negative effects on the human body.


Consuming these foods can lead to increased rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems including depression. One 2023 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, estimated that more than half, around 55%, of the calories consumed by the nearly 10,000 participants came from UPF. This high intake of unhealthy UPF foods was found to be linked with greater amounts of body fat, a significant contributor to the growing obesity epidemic.


Why?  Researchers summarized that UPF are not only quick and easy to eat – they’re easy to digest too. They have a high glycemic index and have little to offer in terms of feeding the gut microbiome. They also lack prebiotics and phenolic compounds that protect against obesity and could even contribute to body fat. In other words, when we eat UPF we consume a lot of empty calories without doing our body much good.  


Think of UPF as a double whammy because in addition to being high in undesirable nutrients, they are also low in fiber and essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals that are vital for a balanced diet. And balance is the key.  We all likely eat UPF to some degree.  But instead of relying so heavily on them, make simple swaps to ensure more of your meals are made up of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other minimally processed foods. 


Here are some tips: 

Instead of soda or artificially flavored beverages, try seltzer water with a splash of fruit juice. 

Instead of granola bars with added sugar, try a DIY granola.

Instead of artificially flavored cheese crackers, try whole grain crackers with cheese slices. 

Instead of ice cream treats loaded with added sugar, try our DIY Dole Whip recipe!



Published July 1,2023

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