When it comes to unhealthy foods, it’s no worse than ultra-processed varieties. Ultra-processed foods are those that are made primarily from processed ingredients that have been stripped of their nutrients such as refined sugar, carbohydrates, fats, etc. Not only do these foods tend to be calorie dense, they provide virtually no nutritional value, making them a terrible addition to your diet. In addition to the fact that they can lead to blood sugar spikes, overeating, weight gain, and disease over time, they can also lead to inflammation and serious harm to your gut, affecting virtually every aspect of your health, including your mood.
“Ultra-processed foods contribute to chronic inflammation that can lead to or exacerbate gut health, mood, and overall health issues,” confirms Lisa Richards, nutritionist and creator of The Candida Diet. To find out more, we asked Richards and Best of Balance One Supplements Registered Dietitian Trista about some of the worst ultra-processed foods and why they should be avoided. They told us all about the effects of inflammatory processed foods like breakfast cereals, sugar pastries and prepackaged oatmeal. Find their expert opinions below!
1. Sweet cereals
While sugary cereals can make a quick, convenient, and tasty breakfast, Richards warns they also come with a range of health consequences, especially when it comes to gut health. For this reason, she recommends cutting out sugary, processed breakfast cereals and replacing them with varieties that don’t contain sugar, artificial colors or refined carbs. You may be surprised at how good you feel when you remove these ingredients, not just from your breakfast cereals, but from your overall diet as well. “Making this change will not only reduce inflammatory ingredients in your diet, but also change the way you start your day,” says Richards. “What we eat first thing in the morning tends to shape the rest of our eating habits throughout the day, for good or ill.” Noted!
2. Breakfast pastries
Unfortunately for those of us who like to go to the bakery or enjoy a sweet brunch, Best says sugary, processed breakfast pastries are another big culprit of gut issues and inflammation. This is largely due to the high refined sugar content of these sneakily delicious treats. “This food is tough on the gut primarily because of the added and refined sugars used to create them,” she explains. “A diet high in this type of sugar promotes gut dysbiosis and imbalance of gut bacteria.” She goes on to say that these added sugars, which are those that were added in the manufacturing process, “are a food source for bad gut bacteria that cause an imbalance and overgrowth of these bacteria and potentially Candida.” And as we’ve said before, when your gut bacteria are out of whack, your overall health can take a hit. you may experience problems like inflammation and a bad mood.
3. Prepackaged oatmeal
While homemade oatmeal topped with healthy ingredients makes a fantastic fiber-rich breakfast, Richards says prepackaged and processed varieties are often loaded with sugar and other artificial ingredients, which we all know , is terrible for your gut, your mood, and your overall health. “Unfortunately, they’re full of ingredients that cause bloating and gas,” she tells us. “Added sugar, refined carbs, and potential lactose/fructose in some flavors will cause a host of negative gastrointestinal side effects.” Ouch! As noted earlier, sugar, in particular, can exacerbate digestive issues because it’s “a food source for bad bacteria and an irritant to the gut.” High-fructose corn syrup is another common ingredient in prepackaged oatmeal that, according to Richards, “produces gas by feeding the bad and often gas-producing bacteria in the gut.”
Overall, processed foods in general can harm your overall health. The highly processed artificial ingredients found in these foods can wreak havoc in your gut, cause inflammation, and even ultimately affect your mood. And while it’s best to cut out all processed foods as much as possible, the ones on this list are a great place to start.