Is the New Year’s Eve the right time to turn to healthy eating tips? Yes – the specialists are convinced, because right now many are evaluating their habits and those of their families and have new commitments related to health and a better life in mind. That is why certified nutritionist Anita Baumane in “Association of Health Centers” and pharmacist Linda Fevraļeva of “Mēnes Aptiekas” remind us of several nutrition-related truths that are especially important for health.
Fresh and homemade!
“A series of studies reveal that processed food products, or so-called semi-finished products, are associated with cancer and early death,” says Anita Baumane, a certified nutritionist of the Association of Health Centers. The specialist explains that eating a large amount of intensively processed foods (ultra-processed foods) significantly increases men’s risk of developing colorectal or bowel cancer, and can also cause heart disease and premature death in both men and women. This is evidenced by two new, large-scale studies published in the British medical journal The BMJ.
Intensively processed food products are prepackaged soups, sauces, frozen pizzas, hot dogs, sausages, French fries, carbonated drinks, cookies, cakes, also candies, doughnuts, ice cream. This list of “sinners” also includes food additives that are used to imitate the taste sensations of raw or minimally processed products, such as flavorings, dyes, sweeteners, emulsifiers. “Not only these two, the most recent, but also many, many other studies link eating intensively processed food products with obesity, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and general mortality,” confirms the nutritionist.
Are men more at risk?
A US study followed the dietary habits of more than 200,000 men and women over 28 years and found a link between eating highly processed foods and colorectal cancer, the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US, with a higher incidence in men.
Despite the results of the study, according to the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and other US institutions in the field of public health, processed foods and especially processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, beef and cured meats beef – has long been associated with the risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women.
However, why did more recent studies not find such a high risk of colorectal cancer in women compared to men?
The main reasons are still unknown, but the association between the consumption of such food and the risk of developing bowel cancer in men could be related to obesity, as well as sex hormones and metabolic hormones. The authors of some studies estimate that women may have chosen less harmful processed foods (such as plain yogurt), thus reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.
Not just colorectal cancer
Let’s also look at other threats to our health.
One study, which took place in the Molise region of Italy, involved more than 22,000 people and studied their dietary habits for 12 years. The study, which began in March 2005, was designed to assess risk factors for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and brain disease.
Almost all other recent data examining the association of nutrient-poor foods (intensively processed foods high in sugar and saturated or trans fat) with the development of chronic diseases and the risk of premature death reach similar results – such foods increase the risk of premature death, especially from cardiovascular diseases. Also, with a note – the research suggests that the increased risk of mortality is not directly (or only) related to the low nutritional value of some products, but to the fact that these foods are mostly intensively processed.
The scourge of fast food
“Swallowing food is not desirable at all, because then our digestive system is not properly “triggered”, which requires that each bite be properly chewed and digested,” explains Anita Baumane, VCA certified nutritionist. But it turns out that with highly processed foods, the scourge of fast food is even worse. In 2019, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) published the results of a controlled clinical trial comparing processed and unprocessed diets. The researchers found that those who regularly consumed highly processed foods ate more quickly and therefore consumed 500 more calories per day than people who prepared their own meals from fresh produce. The representatives of the first group of research participants gained an average of 0.9 kilograms. This proves that highly processed foods contain components that make you eat more without even wanting to or realizing it.
Why are highly processed foods so harmful?
First, they often contain a lot of added sugar and salt, and over
no additives such as artificial colors, flavorings or stabilizers, and secondly, they are mostly low in fiber.
“Although some intensively processed foods may be considered healthier than others, in general, we nutritionists recommend avoiding highly processed foods and focusing more on healthy unprocessed foods – fruits, vegetables, legumes,” says Anita Baumane. “We don’t have such statistics in Latvia, but data from the USA show that residents get a large part of their daily calories from processed food products – 58% of adults and 67% of children, which is particularly dangerous. For the prevention of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, one should consider replacing semi-finished products with fresh or minimally processed food products.”
According to the specialist, the time after the turn of the year is the right time to look for equally delicious, but much healthier food preparation technologies and then continue to eat as healthy throughout the year 2023!
If you have eaten too much
Pharmacist Linda Fevraleva reminds us about the preparations that should be used if, however, you have eaten too much. These are enzymes/enzymes used to prevent heaviness, fullness and bloating, pressure and even pain, stomach growling and loud noises, they can be taken with meals to promote the digestion of fats, carbohydrates, proteins and reduce the occurrence of the mentioned symptoms. Acid-neutralizing or antacids, which have strong gastrointestinal mucosal coating properties and their various dosage forms combine both neutralizing and adsorptive action, can also be useful. You can also use, for example, preparations containing turmeric root, as it improves digestion and promotes bile secretion.