Weekly column by the Ministry of Health |09 April 2022
MAKE 2022 THE YEAR YOU TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH
Cut down on ultra processed foods – for your own sake
We all grow up with certain unforgettable memories of food from our childhood that accompany us well into our adult life.
And often, especially when we feel hungry, they come back in our thoughts – from the smell of the freshly opened tin of corned beef, to the taste of a slice of Kraft cheese, or ice-cream.
These smells and tastes often haunt us, but little do we know about the harmful ingredients they contain.
Choose minimally processed foods
Not all processing is bad.
The main reason why certain foods are minimally processed is to extend its shelf-life, improve its safety or improve its taste.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are processed, but they often retain their nutritional value because they are frozen at their peak ripeness.
Canned beans and tomatoes also are minimally processed, so their nutritional benefits are preserved and there are minimal ingredients added to them.
But ultra-processed foods are different. Far from their original state, a potato chip looks very different from a potato. Similarly, chicken nuggets and hot dogs don’t resemble the animals they come from.
During processing manufacturers add additives, colours, as well as flavourings to increase the taste and visual appeal.
Ultra-processed foods contain harmful ingredients
Ultra-processed foods are not only high in added preservatives but they are also high in sugar, salt, saturated and trans fat.
Excessive consumption of such foods is therefore linked to obesity and increased risk of certain lifestyle diseases like cancer.
Examples of such foods include soft drinks, hot dogs, chips, cookies, confectionary, packaged soups, ice-cream and sweetened breakfast cereals.
While it is unrealistic to ban the sale and consumption of such foods, we are urged to reduce our intake and opt for healthier alternatives.
Learn to read food labels
If you’re not sure if a food is ultra-processed, read the ingredient label. Ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest.
If the list is long or reads like a science experiment, the food may be highly processed.
Avoid foods with added sugars among the first few ingredients, including brown sugar, corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrate.
Similarly, foods with salt listed among the first ingredients should be limited, including those with terms like monosodium glutamate (MSG), rock salt, sodium nitrate, sodium sorbate, sodium alginate, sodium citrate or vegetable salt.
Reduce ultra-processed foods in your diet
You can decrease a diet high in ultra-processed foods with small steps.
Eat more fresh or minimally processed foods. Rather than focus on what you want to cut out, work on increasing healthier foods.
Aim for five portions of fruits and vegetables per day. It’s easier than you think: a banana and a slice of papaya at breakfast; a packed salad at lunch; sliced carrots and cucumber for a snack and moringa broth (‘bouyon bred’) and pumpkin salad for dinner – just as examples.
Shop mainly at the local markets or road side stalls near you. This is where most of our fresh foods are located.
And by doing so you're also helping your farming and fishing community.
Make healthier choices
The good news is that most unsweetened frozen fruits and vegetables, and canned goods can be an important part of a healthy diet.
Good choices include: canned tuna or beans, steam-in-bag frozen veggies and frozen fruit with no sugar added or frozen vegetables.
Due to the addition of salt in most canned goods it is still important to read food labels and avoid such products if you’re having certain existing conditions like high blood pressure.
And don't forget water
Drink more water and fewer sugar-sweetened drinks.
Carbonated water and fruit-infused waters add flavour and variety without calories or artificial chemicals.
Try a refreshing glass of seltzer or sparkling water with cucumber, mint and a squeeze of lime.
Slowly cut back
Cutting back on processed foods takes time and diligence, but eliminating the unhealthy ingredients from your diet will improve your health in the long run.
Thank you for coming back here every week. And don't forget to check out our Facebook page - Eat for our Health Seychelles - and our Instagram feed @eat4ourhealth.
Yours in health
Your E4OH Team
By:GP in collaboration with Nutrition unit, Health Care Agency