“The health risks of these foods are likely related to the specific processes of how these foods are made, the ingredients they contain, and the displacement of healthier unprocessed or minimally processed foods,” Andrea Glenn, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition, said in an August 15, 2022 Everyday Health article.
But not everything that comes in a box or can is ultra-processed, Glenn said. She noted that some less-processed foods such as canned vegetables and boxed whole grain pasta can be healthy. “Ingredients are listed by weight in the ingredient list,” she said, “so if you see a lot of ingredients you typically would not use in the kitchen at the beginning of the list then the food is considered ultra-processed.” A long shelf-life is also a sign of ultra-processing.
Other healthier choices to look for on labels, according to experts: low levels of sodium, higher amounts of total fat than saturated fat (which mean the food contains healthier fats), and at least one gram of fiber for every 10 grams of carbohydrates.
Read the Everyday Health article: What are Ultra-Processed Foods? A Detailed Scientific Guide