Processed foods. What is their role in obesity? Can we freely eat whatever we want? Is it all about calories or is it not?

In this article we will look at a study that focused on the effects of over-processed foods on weight.

But before we go any further, let's look at what the term "processed food" means.


The term comes from the NOVA classification system, which groups foods according to the degree of processing.

I translate from the page:

Examples of typical over-processed products are: carbonated beverages. sweet or savoury packaged snacks; ice cream, chocolate, candies (confectionery); soft breads and rolls; margarines and spreads; biscuits, cakes, pastries, cakes and cake mixes; breakfast cereals, cereal bars and energy bars; energy drinks; milk drinks, fruit yoghurts and fruit drinks; cocoa drinks; meat and chicken extracts and instant sauces; preparations, baby formulae, infant formulae, post-nursing milks, other infant products; 'health' and 'slimming' products such as powders or 'enhanced' meals and meal replacements; ready-to-eat products such as prepared pies, pasta and pizzas; chicken nuggets and fish nuggets and sticks, sausages, burgers, hot dogs and other reconstituted meats, as well as 'instant' soups, pasta and desserts.

Yes, sir. No further comment on the "quality" of these foods.


A recent survey had 20 adults free to eat for 2 weeks meals that were either processed or unprocessed and equal in calories, macronutrients, sugar, sodium and dietary fibre.

After the 2 weeks, those who had followed the diet with the super-processed meals switched to the unprocessed meals and similarly, those who had followed the diet with the unprocessed meals switched to the super-processed meals.

The results?

Increased energy intake during the overprocessed diet, from consuming higher amounts of carbohydrate (280 ± 54 kcal/day) and dietary fat (230 ± 53 kcal/day), while feelings of appetite, hunger and satisfaction were similar!

This led participants on the superprocessed diet to gain 0.9 ± 0.3 kg while losing 0.9 ± 0.3 kg during the unprocessed diet.


As we saw, it was all about calories. The over-processed foods were more palatable and low in protein, leading participants to eat more.

It is also known that processing food deprives it of beneficial ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, edible fibres, many times phytochemicals, while TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) or DIT (Diet-Induced Thermogenesis) is lower.

In short, the more a food is processed, the more its benefits are reduced, while its caloric value increases.


Somewhere here you probably expect me to say avoid processed foods. And yet, here I disagree.

As I have explained in "Basic Principles of Nutrition Part I" and in "Basic Principles of Nutrition Part II"health and nutrition is a long-term thing. If you daily force yourself not to go out with friends, or when you do go out to suppress yourself, what will the results be? Seriously how professional can someone be who recommends that a healthy person not eat cake on their child's birthday?

How long can something like this last until the outbreak of what such a person had been deprived of?

Consuming 500 calories from apples will yield about the same results in weight change as consuming 500 calories from pizza, doughnuts or boiled potatoes.

The point is that when you're trying to be healthy in the long term, you have to be able to maintain your mental health. Okay, eating a hamburger isn't the healthiest thing in the world, but if one or even two meals of "junk food" a week helps you otherwise keep your weight down, no problem.

Did you go overboard and eat more with company? Okay, but there's no need to punish yourself and gamble with your health with deprivation diets.

Reminder, Professor Mark Haub lost about 12.5 kg and 8.5% of body fat in two months by eating almost exclusively "junk food" (plus some milk, carrots, vitamin supplements and protein shakes to make sure his body was getting the essentials).

Diet, Diet, Diet, Dieting, Obesity, Obesity, Obesity food, Processed food, Over processed food, Over processed food, Weight loss, Weight loss, Weight loss, Losing weight, Losing kilos, Slimming, Slimming down
Professor Mark Haub

Simple things: Did you eat a little more dessert or food on your night out with your friends? Back to plan A. Eat what you were eating before the stray. No panic.

Let's summarize:

  • The more processed a food, the more "empty" calories it offers
  • The more processed a food, the more we will want to consume because of its deliciousness, low protein and low fibre content.
  • However, if we find that we suppress ourselves by avoiding these foods it can have negative effects in the long term

Until next time!

-Suprastratum: The authority on health, fitness and nutrition


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Author: Nick Krontiris

Founder, Suprastratum


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