Ultra-processed food

Food that has been designed by chemists using chemical ingredients, and made in factories with processes unavailable to chefs, such as pre-frying, carbonation, extrusion.

Processed food can include tinned vegetables, smoked meats, freshly baked bread, and simple cheeses. Ultra-processed food can include instant ramen, soft drink, Spam, lollies.

Ultra-processed food makes up almost 57 percent of the average UK diet and more than 60 percent of the US diet.

Cheaper than whole food

In Kevin Hall’s 2019 study, the weekly cost of the ultra-processed meals was $45 cheaper than the whole food diet. “If you design policies to try to eliminate those foods without at the same time providing cheap, inexpensive, easy, convenient alternatives, you’re going to have a lot of people who are going to experience negative consequences of that,”

Causes fat gain

Should be avoided if your goal is Fat loss. In a split test of two groups of people eating food with the same nutritional content, but one of whole food and the other of ultra-processed, the group eating ultra-processed food ate an additional 500 calories a day

One exception is plant-based meat. Christopher Gardner ran a trial where people swapped animal meat with plant-based meats for eight weeks. After the plant-based phase of the trial, people lost weight and had low cholesterol concentrations[1]. When it comes to plant-based meats, Gardner says the ultra-processed label might be doing the category a disservice.



  1. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition A randomized crossover trial on the effect of plant-based compared with animal-based meat on trimethylamine-N-oxide and cardiovascular disease risk factors in generally healthy adults: Study With Appetizing Plantfood—Meat Eating Alternative Trial (SWAP-MEAT). Was funded by Beyond Meat but they did not conduct the study, according to Stanford Medicine News Center ↩︎