I’m a nutritionist and these are the foods that you didn’t know can affect your mental health

DO you know what’s lurking in your food?

Eating ultra-processed foods — known as UPFs — can massively increase your risk of brain and ovarian cancer, says Imperial College London.

DO you know what’s lurking in your food? Here, we show the difference between natural and ultra-processed version of your favourite grub

UPFs are defined by the researchers as high in salt, fat, sugar, additives and low in nutritional value.

Their report found for every ten per cent increase in UPF in a person’s diet, the chances of getting a type of cancer increased by two per cent.

Yet Dr Eleanor Bryant, health and eating behaviour psychologist at the University of Bradford, reckons it is hard to escape the lure of UPFs.

She explained: “Humans have been processing foods for thousands of years by pickling vegetables, brewing beer and smoking meat.

“It’s only fairly recently food has become about volume.

“By and large, ultra-processed foods are about taste and that’s usually at the cost of nutrition.

“It’s difficult to find a food that is really healthy that has gone through so many processes to get to the end points.”

She added: “Evidence does suggest physical and mental health are affected by UPFs.

“It’s far too easy to eat a UPF diet because that’s what the supermarket and shop shelves are filled with. It’s very easy to fall into a trap.

“There’s no easy solution, unfortunately. It takes willpower and government policy to address these foods.

“Canada, Brazil and France are all starting to put UPF policy in place.”

Here, we show the difference between natural and ultra-processed version of your favourite grub.

We also look at a range of popular grocery products which are so artificial that the list of ingredients in each one seems to bear very little resemblance to food.


How many ingredients are found in these natural foods?

TOMATO, 1 ingredient: High in lycopene, which helps ward off heart disease and cancer. Full of Vitamins C and K.

LEMON, 1 ingredient: The citrus fruit is high in Vitamin C – nearly as much as an orange – and helps the body protect itself against cold and flus.

PORK,1 ingredient: The meat is a great source of protein and also high in iron and zinc.

YOGHURT, 1 ingredient: Calcium found in milk is essential for keeping your bones and teeth healthy. It is also high in Vitamin B12, which helps brain and blood health.

BURGER, 1 ingredient: Beef is high in iron, which is good for energy and protein and helps you boost muscle mass.

CHICKEN, 1 ingredient: Britain’s most popular meat can help brain function and boosts levels of happy hormone serotonin. It is low-fat, too, so it’s good for your heart health.

MUSHROOMS, 1 ingredient: Studies have shown mushrooms can lower cholesterol in overweight adults – and they also contain flu-busting Vitamin D.

POTATO, 1 ingredient: High in fibre, which makes it great for digestion. The root veg also has potassium to help the heart and nervous system.

CHEESE, 1 ingredient: All dairy products are great for calcium intake, and cheese is high in Vitamin A, which is great for your skin. But it also contains a lot of fat and sodium, so you should avoid eating it too often.

BUTTER, 2 ingredients: Proper butter is made from churned milk and added salt – making it good for calcium levels.
But avoid eating it every day as it is relatively high in fat.


How many ingredients are found in these processed foods?

TINNED TOMATOES, 3 ingredients: Has the health benefits of tomatoes and stores for longer. But watch out – they often have citric acid added to help preserve them.

HOME-MADE LEMONADE, 4 ingredients: Making lemonade from lemon juice, sugar and water will give you the same cold-busting boost as lemon. But go easy on the sugar to avoid weight gain and dental cavities.

HOME-MADE SAUSAGES, 11 ingredients: Handmade skinless sausages might be high in fat and salt – but if you are seasoning with sage or thyme, both contain anti-inflammatory properties.

GREEK YOGHURT, Fage Total: 3 ingredients: Mostly made from processed milk, Greek yoghurt sometimes features thickening agents. Avoid “Greek-style” yoghurt, which can contain sweeteners.

HOME-MADE BURGER, With shop-bought bun: 21 ingredients:
Although the meat is processed, a home-made burger on the barbecue can be a relatively healthy choice if using low-fat mince.

HOME-MADE BREADED CHICKEN, 5 ingredients: Using chicken breast, flour, egg, breadcrumbs and oil, you can control the portion sizes. Making them in an air fryer will require less oil too.

HOME-MADE MUSHROOM SOUP, 9 ingredients: Cooking is believed to halve the mushrooms’ nutrients, while the cream and butter increase calories. Adding parsley can help digestion

CRISPS, Walkers ready salted, 4 ingredients: Although not exactly a healthy meal, if you have to pick a brand of crisps these ones feature ingredients that are relatively natural, even though they contain two types of oils.

MAC ’N’ CHEESE, Home made, 9 ingredients: High in butter, cheese and carbs, but doesn’t contain any additives. You can pop garlic in the recipe, which is good for your immune system and high blood pressure.

SPREADABLE BUTTER, Lurpak, 5 ingredients: Relatively natural, with ingredients of milk, rapeseed oil, water and salt. But it also contains natural preservative lactic culture to make the product last longer.


How many ingredients are found in these ultra-processed foods?

PASTA SAUCE, Dolmio Bolognese, 13 ingredients: Contains citric acid and modified maize starch. A 750g jar has 42g of sugar, more than a Snickers bar. In 2016 the makers warned customers not to eat it every day

SPRITE, 8 ingredients: Although this brand of lemonade boasts natural lemon flavouring and carbonated water, it is also packed full of additives such as sodium citrates and low-calorie sweeteners acesulfame K and aspartame.

HERTA FRANKFURTERS, 16 ingredients: Made from just 86.5 per cent pork. Some of the other the ingredients include carmine for colouring, sodium nitrite to make them last longer and smoke.

GREEK-STYLE YOGHURT, Muller Bliss lemon yoghurt, 14 ingredients: EACH pot of this flavoured yoghurt contains 6g of fat – as much as a rasher of bacon – and additive E472b to make it thicker

MICROWAVE BURGER, Rustlers Quarter Pounder & Cheese, 62 ingredients: One burger contains 12 different E numbers. There is also 2.8g salt – almost half of the recommended daily intake.

CHICKEN NUGGETS, Birds Eye southern fried nuggets, 24 ingredients: Contains only 50 per cent chicken breast. The other half includes highly processed carbohydrate maltodextrin – which, at least, is low-calorie.

Mushroom, 19 ingredients:
It is low in calories and may seem healthy, but one tin contains 11.4g of fat and just six per cent mushrooms.

PRINGLES, Original, 11 ingredients: The popular snacks are made from dehydrated potatoes which can lose some of their potassium during processing. The yellowish crisp hue comes from processed colourant annatto norbixin.

INSTANT MAC ’N’ CHEESE, Mugshot noodles macaroni and cheese, 18 ingredients: Sweetener dried glucose syrup offers no nutritional value apart from calories.

SPREAD, Benecol Light, 14 ingredients: Plant stanol ester, a natural compound, has been linked to reducing cholesterol. But the spread also contains
potassium sorbate to stop it going mouldy.


How many ingredients are in these foods?

Super Noodles chicken flavour, 24 ingredients: Among the many ingred-ients in each packet are butylated hydroxyan-isole, propyl gallate and potassium chloride. But you may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t contain any actual chicken.

Diet Coke, 7 ingredients: By using the sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame instead of sugar, Coca-Cola can claim the drink has zero calories. Diet Coke also has a tiny amount of phosphoric acid, which is known for its corrosive properties.

Skittles, 18 ingredients: Their slogan is “taste the rainbow” – so it is fitting that these sweets are coloured by seven E numbers. These are E162 (red), E163 (purple), E170 (white), E160a (orange), E100 (yellow), E132 (blue) and E133 (greenish-blue).

Birds Eye Green Cuisine Meat-Free Meatballs, 22 ingredients:
Plant-based food is a byword for natural – but these meatballs contain thickener and chemical compound methylcellulose, which is also used in some wallpaper pastes and eye drops.
The compound, which is non-toxic in food, is used to replicate the texture of meat.

Elmlea Double plant alternative to cream, 15 ingredients: Made mostly from oils and lentil protein, this cream substitute also contains the emulsifier sugar esters of fatty acids. This non-naturally occurring ingredient can also be found in products such as deodorant and chewing gum.

Monster Energy drink, 22 ingredients: Unsurprisingly, this energy drink is not particularly high in natural ingredients. One interesting addition to the list is the sugar inositol, which is used in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome and bipolar disorder.

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