These Popular Grocery Store Items Can Dramatically Increase Your Risk of Death, New Study Says
Numerous studies have highlighted the value of loading fruits and vegetables in the grocery store, but what is equally important is what to avoid, according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The researchers looked at over 22,000 people who provided data on health conditions and eating habits over an eight-year period, and found that those who consumed the most ultra-processed foods had a 26% increased risk of death from any reason than those who she didn't eat this food. Their risk of cardiovascular disease was even higher at 58% than those who avoided ultra-processed decisions.
These foods are made through extensive industrial processing that significantly alters their natural properties, according to the study's lead author, Marialaura Bonaccio, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute in Italy.
So what foods should I avoid and why?
They're usually high in sugar, oil, and salt, and low in essential nutrients, she says. This includes choices like microwaveable meals, fries and fried snacks, and sugary treats like cookies. (For more information on healthier meals and snacks, check out the 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make.)
What's worse is that these foods are likely to be consumed in excess and when they make up a larger part of a diet, healthier options like nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables are pushed out, says Bonaccio. This is especially true for those of lower socioeconomic status, as these foods can be a cheap source of calories.
A large part of the problem is the high amount of sugar, which earlier research has shown to be associated with an increased risk of premature mortality and cardiovascular disease. But it's not just the cute stuff that is a problem.
"Of course, excess sugar is not healthy for us and can increase the risk of death on its own," says Bonaccio. "But industrial processing itself also plays an important role here. This is due to the fact that the composition and structure of the nutrients is changed."
What does it all mean?
That said, it's not just the food that makes the difference - it's what you don't eat, too. Ultra-processed foods can lead to significant nutritional gaps that over time can destroy the body and negatively impact not only your heart but also metabolic function, brain health, gut health, and immune system regulation. Because these foods are low in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, eating more of them can lead to inflammation in the body, increasing the risk of earlier death.
Instead, what helps you live longer? Those in the study who came closest to the Mediterranean diet - high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and fish - had much lower health risks, especially when they had more variety in their vegetable and grain consumption. Better access to such foods would likely lead to longer lives, according to Bonaccio.
To better understand why you crave highly processed frozen and packaged foods, be sure to check out New Study Explains Why You Can't Stop Eating Unhealthy Foods.
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