Buying processed food? Know the risks- The New Indian Express

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Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Food and beverage giant is caught in the eye of a storm after a recent report revealed that over 60 per cent of its mainstream offerings are unhealthy. This is not the first time that it has been embroiled in such a controversy. The report noted that the sodium and sugar content in most of the products were above the permissible limits recommended for daily consumption for adults. This revelation has once again brought the focus back on processed foods and the hidden salt, sugar and additives in them. They have been linked to obesity and lifestyle diseases for a long time. Recently, nutrition policy activists in India demanded that scientific cutoffs for salt, sugar and fats in processed foods should be made mandatory.

Talking to Express, Dr B Sujeeth Kumar said: “High consumption of processed foods can lead to obesity, diabetes, chronic inflammation and even cancer. White rice and white sugar are the most common processed food products most Indians consume every day. White rice is deficient in bran and germ layer, and hence does not have any nutrients and fibre. It’s just empty carbohydrates. Studies have shown that if you have 10 percent processed food every day, there is 10 percent increase in cardiac events. Since these products are inexpensive, it is easy to become addicted to them. Oats, noodles, peanut butter – all are processed foods. People are eating them without sparing any thought because they are not aware of their harmful effects.” “An easy way to make rice more nutritious is to have it with lentils and green leafy vegetables. This combination brings down the glycemic index of rice, which means sugar is absorbed in the body over three-four hours without causing any sudden spike in blood sugar. This leads to less hunger pangs and prevents overeating,” suggests the doctor.

Processed food and immunity

At a time when boosting immunity is the catchphrase everywhere, dietician Dr Zeenath Fatima points out how processed foods can cause inflammation and make you more susceptible to infections.”These products can cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome. It has been found that any change in gut flora can affect the immunity system. High intake of sugar can cause rise in inflammatory proteins. All processed foods have preservatives which can be salt, sugar, emulsifiers or other additives. Sometimes, sugar is listed on the labels of these items as other names such as dextrose, fructose etc. Salt, sugar and flour (maida) are called white poisons. In fact, our refined oils too are high in omega 6 fatty acids, which can harm our body. We need a balance of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids to control inflammation,” she says.

Beware of sugar, the white poison

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that consuming free sugars increases the risk of dental caries (tooth decay). Excess calories from foods and drinks high in free sugars also contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which can lead to overweight and obesity. Recent evidence also shows that free sugars influence blood pressure and serum lipids, and suggests that a reduction in free sugars intake reduces risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.

What is processed food?

Processed food is any kind of food that has been altered from its natural state to make it safe for consumption or last longer. The methods used for processing food can be dehydrating, canning, freezing or adding preservatives. The most common preservatives used are salt, sugar and other additives.

EXAMPLES OF PROCESSED FOOD

  • Cakes and bakery products
  • Biscuits
  • Savoury snacks
  • Microwave-ready meals
  • Bread
  • Breakfast cereals

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