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Greg Bishop, Park City Attorney, Recommends Eliminating Ultra-Processed Foods During Retirement

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Even after you retire, you will still live in a fast-paced, get-it-done, multi-tasking world where competing options constantly vie for your attention. There are so many conflicting demands for your time that even eating properly on a consistent basis can be a daunting task. Compounding the problem is that corporate America spends billions of dollars every year to develop, manufacture, package, and market food that appeals to our tastes for sweet, salty and fatty food that is not only fast and convenient but arguably purposely addictive.  

Studies have long concluded that consuming a substantial amount of heavily processed foods is linked to an increased risk of a wide variety of health problems, including heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, cancer and depression. Part of the problem is that processed foods are often high in sugar, high in fat, and low in fiber and nutrients. Recent studies have provided additional evidence of the health consequences of ultra-processed foods. One study demonstrated that having more than four servings of ultra-processed foods per day increases the risk of premature death by 62% (versus consuming little or no ultra-processed foods). Another study determined that each 10 percentage-point increase in a diet of ultra-processed foods correlates to more than a 10% increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases.  

Unprocessed, Processed and Highly Processed Foods, Oh My!

Given these dangers, you may wonder what it means when foods are categorized as unprocessed, processed, or ultra-processed.

Unprocessed (or minimally processed) foods refers to whole foods where the original fiber, nutrients and vitamins remain unaltered from their original state. Unprocessed foods include fruits, vegetables and unsalted nuts, as well as raw poultry, meat and fish. To be clear, unprocessed foods may have been changed from their natural state by removing inedible parts, pasteurizing, boiling, freezing, roasting, drying, or crushing. But there is a very big difference between mechanical processing (such as cutting apples from a tree, grinding beef or separating cream to make butter) and chemical processing. The key takeaway is that unprocessed foods retain their original fiber, nutrients and vitamins.

Processed food, on the other hand, is food that is changed from its natural state, typically by the addition of salt, sugar, or other substances. Processed foods typically include two or three ingredients, such as canned vegetables or fruit, canned fish or meat, and freshly made bread.  

In contrast, highly processed (or ultra-processed) foods have many added ingredients, such as industrial oils, sugars, refined carbohydrates, synthetic flavors, sodium, fat, natural flavors, artificial flavors, artificial colors and preservatives. Examples of highly processed foods include ready-to-eat food, soft drinks, fast food, frozen food, microwaveable food, cold cuts, packaged cookies and cakes, snack foods, and salty foods.  

Suggestions for Older Adults

Greg Bishop, an attorney in Park City, Utah, suggests that older adults decrease and eventually eliminate their daily intake of highly processed foods by following these seven steps:

  1. Make a reasonable transition plan, starting by adding fresh food to each meal and reducing processed foods over time. Going “cold turkey” will likely be too difficult and make you feel like giving up 
  2. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables between meals rather than sweet or salty snacks 
  3. Avoid shopping in the middle of the grocery store – stick to the produce, meat and dairy sections that are usually found on the outer edges of the store 
  4. Reduce and eventually avoid processed meats such as bacon, ham, hot dogs and sausage 
  5. Limit then eliminate sugar-based drinks, then artificially sweetened drinks. Eventually, transition to drinking just water (including carbonated water), flavored with fresh fruit for variety 
  6. Stop adding salt to your food (for a flavor boost, use other seasonings such as pepper or garlic)
  7. Choose whole grains (brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread) rather than processed grains (white rice, egg pasta, white bread)

About Greg Bishop, Attorney | Greg Bishop is an experienced corporate attorney, compliance officer, and HR leader based in Park City, Utah. He has devoted the past three decades of his life to helping companies succeed. Now, he is more focused on team building and inspiring others to continually improve themselves and live their lives to the fullest.

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