ICMR Says Bread, Butter, and Cheese Are Ultra-Processed Foods; Why Should You Not Have Them?

In the latest dietary guidelines released by the Indian Council of Medical Research, widely-consumed foods like bread, butter, and cheese are ultra-processed – which means loaded with salt, sugar, and fat. The health panel advises against consuming these, as ultra-processed foods can be extremely detrimental to your health, leading to many life-threatening diseases. Read on to know the best way to counter the effects.
Ultra-processed foods

ICMR has recommended the consumption of wholesome and minimally processed foods

In their dietary guidelines, the Indian Council of Medical Research or ICMR has strictly advised against over-consuming ultra-processed foods which include bread, butter, and cheese. According to the health panel, all of these are packed with salt, sugar, fats, preservatives, and additives. Other examples of ultra-processed foods according to the ICMR include breakfast cereals, refined flour, milk-based health drinks, and even cooking oils. “If the foods are ultra-processed or high in fat/sugar/salt, then enriching them with nutrients or fortifying cannot make them wholesome or healthy,” the guideline said.
The medical body has recommended the consumption of wholesome and minimally processed foods "to ensure consumption of safe, right balance of the required nutrients.”

Why are ultra-processed foods bad for health?

The ultra-processed foods mostly undergo numerous industrial processes and are made of chemically modified substances that are extracted from foods. Additives are used to enhance the appearance, texture, taste, or durability of the food, along with added colors, flavours, and emulsifiers.
Nutritionists say apart from being high in salt, sugar, and fat, they are extremely low in vitamins and fibre and have minimal or no whole foods.
According to experts, a high intake of ultra-processed foods increases the risk of more than 30 damaging health conditions. Studies say that diets high in ultra-processed foods increase the risk of major heart and lung conditions, cancer, mental health disorders, and other negative health outcomes, including early death. Studies have found an association between ultra-processed foods and all causes of mortality, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, adverse sleep outcomes, adverse anxiety outcomes, asthma, hypertension, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, obesity, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and hyperglycemia, among other diseases and conditions.
At least a 50 per cent increased risk of deaths related to cardiovascular disease, a 12 per cent higher risk of type-2 diabetes and a 48-53 per cent higher risk of anxiety and mental disorders have been reported in those regularly consuming these foods.

Ways to eat a healthy diet

According to the ICMR, it is important to do fortification and enrichment of foods to help address specific nutrient deficiencies within the population. The health body advocates adding more iron, vitamins, iodine, and other micronutrients to staple foods like salts, oils, etc. to help combat deficiencies like anemia. A few ways you can do that are:

Always eat a balanced meal

Make sure to eat all food groups – proteins and carbs so that you get all their qualities spread over all three meals

Read Labels

Always make sure to read the nutrition labels on packaged foods. Always look for detailed information on the serving size, calories, and both macro and micronutrients.

Beware of Misleading Claims

Many foods are packed with marketing claims like low fat or low sugar, which experts believe may not always be true.

Review Ingredients in Descending Order

Always read the list of ingredients mentioned on food labels in descending order to know what the nutritional quality of the products is. If sugar is the first ingredient mentioned on the labels, it means that you must avoid it.
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