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Healthy vs. Highly Processed Food: What to Know

A checklist to help you discover the difference between processed and ultra-processed foods for better health:

Navigating the noise around processed and ultra-processed food makes eating a healthy meal

feel almost too stressful to bother. But nearly 58% of calories eaten in the US come from Ultra-processed foods, making them the primary energy source of those countries. The worse news is that higher consumption of ultra-processed food is associated with a 79% and 30% substantial risk of obesity and abdominal obesity, increasing the risk factor for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal conditions and cancer.

Knowing what foods get grouped as ultra-processed can help us prioritize our focus for better nutrition and overall health.

The four groups are:

1. Unprocessed and minimally processed

2. Processed culinary ingredients

3. Processed

4. Ultra-processed

Use this checklist to spot the difference between minimally processed, processed, and ultra-processed foods and discover a calming sense of understanding around food labeling.

Group #1 - Unprocessed & Minimally Processed

Target 80% of your diet in this area

Unprocessed or minimally processed foods are whole-foods with intact vitamins and nutrients, often in natural or nearly natural conditions.

Unprocessed or natural foods are taken directly from plants or animals and do not get altered following their removal from nature.

Minimally processed foods get modified by removing inedible parts, drying, fermentation, crushing, roasting, boiling, freezing, or pasteurizing to make them appropriate to store and safe to ingest. That process does not add oils, fats, sugar, salt, or other substances to the original food.

❤️Fruit ❤️Fish (wild caught)

❤️Vegetables ❤️Dairy (Organic / full fat)

❤️Nuts ❤️Meat (prefer grass-fed/grass finished)


❤️Eggs (Pasture Raised Organic)

❤️Tea (all types) ❤️Coffee

❤️Spices ❤️Dried herbs

❤️Tap, spring, and mineral water

Group #2 - Processed Culinary Ingredients

Consider this group "In Moderation" 10% of diet

Processed culinary ingredients are products extracted from natural foods or nature by

pressing, grinding, crushing, pulverizing, and refining. As long as they get used in moderation in culinary preparations based on natural or minimally processed foods, they can contribute

to eclectic and delicious diets without rendering them nutritionally unbalanced. But some can be highly processed, such as rancid vegetable oil, or derived from low-quality sources, damaging our health. Try and choose high-quality culinary ingredients.

❤️Olive oil ❤️Avocado Oil

❤️Coconut OIl ❤️Coconut Butter

❤️Nut Butters ❤️Seed Butters (sunflower /tahini)

❤️Vinegar (Red Wine, Coconut, Apple Cider)

❤️Butter ❤️Ghee

What to avoid

🚫Seed Oils


Group #3 - Processed

Consider this group "limit"

Processed foods change from their natural state by adding salt, oil, sugar, or other enhancer substances. Processed foods often have two or three ingredients. It can be easy to forget that freshly made, crusty artisan sourdough and canned chickpeas are still processed, containing multiple ingredients.

❤️Canned Fruit in Syrup ❤️Canned fish, with added preservatives

❤️Cured meats ❤️Canned or bottled legumes or vegetables

❤️Nut Butters ❤️Beer


❤️Condiments with added sugar

When Shopping Look For:

❤️Non GMO ❤️Gluten Free

❤️No Added Nitrates

❤️No added sugar