Put down those chicken nuggets. Step away from the soft drinks and skip the cake. You already know this stuff is not good for you, and new research has linked ultraprocessed food like this to poor heart health.
For some people, ultraprocessed foods are more than an occasional indulgence. In the United States, those foods account for more than half of the average person’s daily calories. New research finds eating this food comes with a price: Adults who got 70% of their calories from ultraprocessed food were half as likely to have good cardiovascular health when compared with people who got a smaller percentage of calories from such foods.
The researchers collected five years of dietary data from more than 13,000 adults who also provided information about their cardiovascular health. The findings by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were presented at a recent American Heart Association meeting.
Ultraprocessed foods are those made primarily from fat, starch and other extracted compounds. They often come with added sugar and artificial flavors and colors. Think cookies, cakes, instant powdered soup and processed meats.
An unbalanced diet that leans too much on ultraprocessed food can displace healthier, nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Ultraprocessed foods also typically pack a wallop of salt, sugar and saturated fat.
Breaking a processed food habit doesn’t have to be done cold turkey, experts noted. Swap that hamburger for fish every so often, or trade white bread for whole grain. Small changes can lead to better heart health.