These are food products that undergo various industrial processes and to which natural or synthetic substances are added – also called additives. The purpose of additives is to give more color, flavor, or increase the shelf life of a product.
This group of foods often uses ingredients from group 3, such as oils, sugar, and salt in high doses to impart a highly refined flavor. Ultra-processed foods may not even include fresh foods in their composition.
Nutritionally, they are often worthless products, although they may be marketed as being low in calories.
This group includes:
. treats and sweets;
. breakfast cereals;
. cakes, breads, biscuits and cookies made with hydrogenated vegetable fat, sugar, starch, whey, emulsifiers, and other additives;
. cereal bars;
. “instant” foods and ready-made sauces;
. “packaged” snacks;
. soft drinks;
. sweetened and flavored yoghurts and dairy drinks;
. energetic drinks;
. frozen products and ready for heating.
Tip: Just look at the list of ingredients – if they are 5 or more or if they are unrecognizable, it is probably an ultra-processed food. This type of food should be completely avoided for a healthy diet.
If you want to have an idea about the types of foods you eat according to this classification, use the Open Food Facts app the next time you go shopping. Just scan the barcode to get the information (it includes nutritional information).
Food Guide for the Brazilian population (reduced version)
FAO report (2019): Ultra-processed foods, diet quality, and health using the NOVA classification system.