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Ultra Bad Foods to Ultra Avoid

We try our best to eat healthily - but in supermarkets, petrol stations and just about everywhere there are sneaky, seriously-damaging traps: ‘Ultra-processed’ foods

Ultra-processed foods are shocking for you, your brain and your moods.

As studies have shown, swapping processed foods for a fresh Mediterranean diet can reduce negative feelings - and a whole host of physical ailments.

But dodging these manufactured good can be tricky… here’s what to know:


At its simplest, processed food is any food that has been altered during the manufacturing process. There are loosely four categories:

  1. Unprocessed: plant foods such as fruit and veg
  2. Processed ingredients: including oils, flour and sugar
  3. Processed: when unprocessed foods are cooked with processed ingredients, such as to make bread or canned vegetables
  4. Ultra-processed: designed for longevity and often reliant on preservatives and additives to preserve shelf-life as well as to improve the flavour


Some of the most common ultra-processed offenders include: pastries, cakes and biscuits, crisps, soft drinks, breakfast cereals, sausages and reconstituted meat products, and packaged pre-prepared meals.


  1. One of the major signs that food might be ultra-processed is the number of ingredients. If there are more than five ingredients it’s safe to assume that it might be ultra-processed.
  2. Unrecognisable ingredients which are, more often than not, additives. While they are usually safe, the effects of others are less known.
  3. While it’s important to look out for high sugar and fat content, other ingredients to look out for in ultra-processed foods are casein, lactose, whey, and gluten, as well as hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.
  4. Always be wary of ‘fresh’ food that has a long shelf life - check the label for preservatives such as sodium benzoate, nitrate and sulphite, BHA and BHT.
  5. Marketing is a subtle indicator of whether food might be ultra-processed. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods often come with little to no packaging so it’s worth pausing to look at the overall presentation of the product.

Happy non-processed shopping!