First of all, let's see what ultra-processed (UP) foods are…
UP are known as HYPERPALATABLE foods. And what makes them fall into this category? Well, neither more nor less than its mixture of refined components (sugars, flours, oils) together with a high caloric density. That is to say: they are usually very tasty, and they have a lot of calories. And our body likes this very much. Let’s see why: 👇🏽
🤔 Think about where we come from. Where we have evolved from. Our ancestors did not have the food we have today available, and shortages were frequent. That made our body develop a preference for the foods that could provide us with the most calories (they are usually the tastiest) and that guarantee survival.
🧠 In our brain, there is a reward mechanism that is activated in many situations, designed to generate pleasure. And one of these is eating. If our brain rewards us with pleasure every time we eat something caloric, then that will make us seek to eat that food.
Okay, now we know that we have to avoid UP foods, but WHY?
As we mentioned before, they are rich in sugar, refined flours, and oils; and there are many studies that show that these are not healthy if consumed in large amounts. But let’s take a different look at it today.
Let’s learn a bit about PHYSIOLOGY:
🤰🏽 When we eat, our digestive system digests food, absorbs it, and the nutrients reach our blood. In order to take advantage of these foods, a hormone must intervene with insulin. This will be released when eating, and the amount released will depend on the number of nutrients (and especially if that nutrient is a “sugar”) that reaches the blood, so the more amount reaches, the more insulin is released.
😰 UPs not only have fairly high amounts of sugar, but they also have it in a form that requires practically no digestion (flour, when digested, also becomes “sugar”). As it reaches the intestine, it is absorbed, so that a lot of shock passes into the blood. Consequently: insulin rises too high.
🆘 Why is this bad? Well, if we constantly have a lot of insulin in our blood, resistance to it no longer functions: the tissues do not respond to the hormone, and they cannot capture the nutrients from the blood. As you can imagine, this produces long-term problems, such as type II diabetes, or worsening of polycystic ovary syndrome, among many others.
What can I do to overcome this? 👀
- Drink plenty of water.
- Distance yourself from cravings (for example, you can take a brisk walk or a shower to shift your mind onto something else).
- Plan your meals (if you don’t have to think about what to eat at the following meal, you will be less tempted and less likely to experience cravings).
- Manage stress.
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat proper, balanced meals.
- Don’t go to the grocery store hungry.
- Practice mindful eating.
The first steps to overcoming addiction include listing the pros and cons of quitting trigger foods, finding healthy food alternatives, and setting a fixed date to start the journey towards health.
Following these tips will help you in your journey to overcoming junk food, and living an overall healthier, happier life. 🌱