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UPF's (Ultra-Processed Food's) - Group Talk - Week Commencing 19th February 2024.

What are UPF's, UPF's are Ultra Processed Foods, the term UPF comes from the NOVA food classification system which grew out of the research of Carlos Augusto Monteiro, from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The NOVA system places foods into four categories based on how much they have been processed during their production.

Group One:- Unprocessed and Minimally Processed.

These foods make up 30% of the calories typically consumed by the UK people.

Unprocessed foods

  • Fruit

  • Vegetables

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Grains

  • Beans

  • Pulses

  • Eggs

  • Fish

  • Milk

  • Unprocessed Meats

Minimal processed foods

  • Dried

  • Crushed

  • Roasted

  • Frozen

  • Boiled

  • Pasteurisedmust contain no added ingredients

  • Frozen Fruit

  • Frozen Vegetables

  • Frozen Fish

  • Pasteurised Milk

  • 100% Fruit Juice

  • No-added sugar yoghurt

  • Spices

  • Dried Herbs

Group Two:- Processed Ingredients

  • Oils

  • Fats i.e. Butter

  • Vinegars

  • Sugar

  • Salt

These ingredients are not meant to be eaten alone but as a seasoning etc to foods in group one.

These foods make up 4% of the calories typically consumed by the UK people.

Group Three:- Processed

  • Jams

  • Pickles

  • Smoked/Cured Whole meats

  • Cheese

  • Tinned Fruit and Vegetables

  • Fresh Bread

  • Bacon

  • Salted or Sugared Nuts

  • Beer/Wine

These foods are products made from group one and two ingredients. The processing can be repeated within a home kitchen, and the process is to extend the foods longevity or enhance its taste.

These foods make up 9% of the calories typically consumed by the UK people.

Group Four:- Ultra-processed

Ultra-processed foods contain usually five or more ingredients, these ingredients are not standard pantry/storecupboard products that are used in homecooking; such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweetners and artifical colours and flavouring. UPF's usually have extended shelf life.

The most commonly eaten ultra-processed foods in the UK are:

  • Commercial Bread (11%)

  • Ready Meals (7.7%)

  • Cereals (4.4%)

  • Sausages and other reconstituted meat products (3.8%)

  • Confectionery (3.5%)

  • Biscuits (3.5%)

  • Pastries, Buns and Cakes (3.3%)

  • Ready Made Chips (2.8%)

  • Soft Drinks, Fruit Drinks and Fruit Juices (2.5%)

  • Crisps (2%)

  • Sauces, Dressings and Gravy (2.1%)

  • Baked Beans, Tinned Soup, Meat Alternative, Soy and Drinks used as dairy milk substitues (3%)

Identifying UPF's can be hard as some foods are similar to each other, but we have to carefully consider the nutritional information label on each product.


Bread - Artisan made from flour, water, salt and yeast is processed. But once we add emulsifiers, colouring, additives it becomes UPF.

Plain Oats, Cornflakes, Shredded Wheat are minimally processed. But once we add sugar, flavouring or colourings they become UPF.

Plain Yoghurt is minimally processed. But once we add sweetners, preservatives, stabilisers or colouring they become UPF.

In the UK 56% of calories consumed are UPF's. UPF's are proven to affect our small intestines and our microbiome due to the altered properties of the plant and animal cells meaning we are not gaining vital nutrients.

How do we recognise UPF's.

  • Often they have a long list of ingredients with products not stocked in our homes

  • Unrecognised ingredients

  • High fat, sugar and salt i.e. look at the traffic lights on the nutritional label.

  • 'Fresh Foods' with extended shelf life which indicates added preservatives i.e. the nutritional label often says sodium benzoate, nitrate,sulphite, BHA and BHT.

  • Hard hitting marketing of the product; When did you last see marketing for fruit and vegetables.

How to avoid UPF's.

  • Choose foods in their orginal form

  • Eat a plant rich dietFruitVegetablesPulsesWholegrainsand a variety of protein sources

  • Cook from Farm to Table meals

  • Avoid food created using ingredients you don't recognise


Research shows eating UPF's regularly is bad for your health. However cutting these out completely from your diet may be challenging. There is no question that the food we eat affects our overall health long-term and overindulging UPF's puts you at a greater risk of disease. However eating UPF's occassionally is about balance within a healthy diet.


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