Why do ultra-processed foods affect your gut (and potentially increase colon cancer risk)?
We’ve all heard that fresh foods are best for us, and that processed foods should be limited – but WHY are processed foods, especially ULTRA-processed foods, damaging for our health (and especially our gut)?
From a gastrointestinal standpoint, ultra-processed foods don’t go through your digestive system well – and can potentially increase your chances of colon cancer. (Learn about your colon cancer risk factors!)
What is “ultra-processed” food?
Processed foods go through a “process” to make them what they are, different from their natural state. Some processed foods are made by adding sugar or salt, like canned vegetables, with minimal added ingredients.
Ultra-processed foods, however, are processed much more. Think foods that have added colors, fats, preservatives and more…all the things that make them taste different and last on the shelf longer. They are made mostly from other substances besides just the main ingredient – and include TV dinners, hot dogs, fast food, and packaged snacks.
These ultra-processed foods are therefore also substantially higher in sodium, fat, sugar, calories, and more from all the additives.
What’s so bad about ultra-processed foods?
Because of all their added ingredients, ultra-processed foods lose their nutritional value and trade it in for increasing all those things we DON’T want in our diets.
One study claims that as a whole, the calories consumed nationally are mainly from ultra-processed foods (at 58 percent) …and that 90 percent of the energy we get is from these added sugars.
Our body gets overloaded by all the processed foods, which can lead to inflammation and an increase in other medical conditions. Because our body is designed to digest natural foods and doesn’t know what to do with all the other stuff it has to digest.
(And we’re seeing that a low-fat, low inflammation diet may help prevent colon cancer!
Since we use food as fuel, the nutrients we get from what we eat impacts our health – so we want as many nutrients as we can get from foods in their natural element.
When we can’t get all the right nutrients our body wants, it can’t run the way it’s supposed to. Just like putting bad gas in your car.
Do ultra-processed foods increase instances of colon cancer?
According to NBC News, new studies indicate that diets high in ultra-processed foods (around 9 servings per day) had a 29-percent higher risk of colorectal cancer than subjects who only had 3 servings of ultra-processed foods per day. In addition, the study showed the group with the highest consumption of ultra-processed foods had around 80 percent of their daily calories from those foods – and the U.S. average is around 57 percent. (Still a lot!)
There are still lots of questions about what impact diet has on causing colon cancer, but we know we want to fuel our bodies in the best way possible, regardless.
How can I get my more nutrients (and less processed foods) in my diet?
These 5 Easy Ways to Swap Out Processed Foods for a Healthier Gut are a good way to start getting fewer processed foods – but always talk to your doctor when making changes in your diet (especially if you have or think you may have Celiac Disease.)
When you’re out to dinner at a restaurant, you can also make slight changes with these 5 Easy Hacks to Create Healthy Habits When Eating Out – without taking away from your dining experience.
And whenever you can, opt for foods that don’t come out of a box. It takes time to make the changes, and time to plan for meals that aren’t as quick as processed ones, but your body will thank you!
Get your gut in tip-top shape at Gastrointestinal Specialists, P.C.
Rumbling in your tummy? Find out why. When foods don’t sit well, we can help you figure out why and get you healthier and feeling better! Contact Gastrointestinal Specialists, P.C. today to schedule an appointment.