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What's a UPF?

Fresh is BEST

'LIGHTER' options


1) Chavez-Ugalde et al., 20232) Cordova et al., 20213) Suksatan et al., 20224) Debras et el. 2022

Depending on the specific product, these foods may contain a range of additives that replace the calorific parts that have been removed such as fat or sugar. The additives are used to improve the taste, consistency, texture and colour of the food.If you don’t recognise many of the ingredients on the food label, it is likely to be ultra-processed and may not be as healthy as you think. For example, low calorie artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame are often used to replace sugar.The findings from a large-scale study suggest that higher artificial sweetener consumption is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk4.

Companies that market UPFs are very well informed about customer choices and behaviour. Some ‘healthy option’ foods are packaged in a way that make them look visually appealing and healthy so that you buy the products. They often convey messages that the foods are ‘healthy’, ‘low fat’, or ‘low calorie’.

'Lighter' Options

The majority of your diet should comprise of fresh foods which are close to their natural state. Healthy choices include fresh vegetables, beans and pulses, fruits, wholegrains, fish, lean meats and dairy.

Some healthy option UPFs may help to reduce daily calorie intake when included as part of a healthy balanced diet. However, if you only eat these types of foods, you may be missing out on some important nutrients and consuming some unhealthy additives.

Look at the ingredients on the food label to get an idea about the extent of processing and the additives in the food.

Try to limit your intake of UPFs such as ready meals, crisps, cakes, biscuits, snack bars and energy drinks. You don’t have to eliminate them completely because you may wish to have the occasional treat.

Fresh is Best

Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) undergo a manufacturing process in which food components are broken down, changed, and then remade with a variety of additives. These additives may include sugar, salt, fats, sweeteners, thickeners, stabilisers, artificial colours and preservatives.

Research suggests that higher consumption of UPFs is associated with an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese2.

What is a UPF?

In the UK adult population, 57% of daily energy intake comes from UPFs and this may be even higher for young people1.

Higher UPF intake is also associated with an increased risk of adult mortality from chronic diseases3. This is because the additives such as fat and sugar can negatively impact on your health.