Healthy Diet and Ultra Processed Foods

I’m 59 and last November I had some health problems and a cataract operation looming in January.

I gave up meat and cow’s milk and caffeine.

And cut out all UPFs - Ultra Processed Foods:

This year I’ve given up alcohol and progressively cut sweet things close to zero (apart from fruit and the odd square of Lindt 70% dark chocolate).

This took little or no willpower or sacrifice - I just did it and enjoyed doing it.

I’ve come down from 14 stone 7 lbs to 12 stone 12 lbs, but kept the same muscle mass.

Just thought I’d share this and ask how people approach healthy diet, and whether you’ve heard of UPFs, which is almost all of the addictive packaged foods that surround us.


Sorry to learn of your cataracts - though to the best of my awareness there is no dietary link.

I have always tended not to go for “ultra-processed” foods (though it is a very vague term), and strongly believe in the value of food prepared from raw ingredients, fresh where possible/practicable - for both quality/taste and nutritional reasons.

In my view humans are hereditary omnivores, and that is how I eat: a lot of vegetables and fruit, and protein source includes meat usually several times a week, fish about as often, and neither about as often. Above all I try to eat a balanced and varied diet - no excess of one thing, and never blindly following any fads. (N.B. Part of my professional postgrad studies included food science, food safety, food quality, food allergies, diet and food production.)

I strongly believe that food preparation/cooking/hygiene should be part of the core school curriculum, taught to every child/young person.

My vices are a love of sweet things, especially chocolate (though I’ve never been into sweet drinks), and I do enjoy alcohol though I am strict about controlling intake. I weigh just over 11 stone, and have been within a few pounds of that for the past 30 years, having crept up half a stone from the 20 years before that (marrying my now wife seemed to lead to a small increase in weight…!


Thanks IB - the operation at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital went very well (I was under a general anaesthetic).

(I wish I’d taken my surgeon’s advice to go for a zero prescription, rather than my optician’s advice to go for a -2.)

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There are specific scientific definitions of UPFs:

E.g. in the Nova system UPFs are:

Group 4: Ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods are complex industrial formulations made from multiple ingredients, including sugar, oils, fats, and salt, often in higher proportions than in processed foods. Unprocessed (group 1) foods often compose a small proportion of their ingredients or are even lacking entirely. Ultra-processing often introduces food substances of little or no culinary use, such as hydrogenated oil, modified starch, protein isolate, and high-fructose corn syrup.

The manufacturing processes for ultra-processed foods typically involve techniques such as extrusion, moulding, and pre-frying, along with the addition of various cosmetic additives, including those for flavour enhancement and colour.

Examples include carbonated soft drinks, reconstituted fruit juices, flavoured yogurt, candies, margarine, reconstituted meat products, plant-based meat substitutes, and some breakfast cereals. Certain bakery items, snacks, and ready-to-heat dishes also fall into this category when they contain food substances of no culinary value or cosmetic additives.[12]

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N.B. I’ve added a bit to my original response

My dad had cataracts, undiagnosed because he didn’t go to tge optician in the last 10years or more of his life. They may have been contributory to his death, knocked down crossing a road, My mum had in one eye, but not until about age 80, and had surgery. I understand not hereditary, but I also anticipate that the probability is it will come sooner or later. IIUC the negative aspect of the operation is zero accommodation afterwards, so needing correction either for close work or far, or both. I wear contact lenses to correct myopia - have done for 48 years. I now quite often have to use reading glasses with them. I suppose one benefit of cataract lens replacement is permanent long sight correction, but with the negative of needing reading glasses whenever looking close, maybe more tgan one strength - or vice versa (is that what you have?)

Since the operation I use three types of single vision glasses: Reading, screen, and longer distance vision.

You can get varifocal lens implants nowadays during a cataract operation, but I didn’t go for that as it sounded too complicated.

I can understand that - not very pleasant if you don’t get on with them! (My wife trialled varifocal glasses about tgree years ago and couldn’t stand them - in fact as a professional chef she found them downright dangerous as the things they struggled with most were at arms’ length, like boiling pans and knives…)

Diet is that subject which is full of myths and many people follow religiously to achieve a goal. Most, if not all, ultimately fail long term, due to depriving themselves of the things they’ve been brought up to enjoy. We live to eat and totally cutting out things we enjoy is usually not an answer.

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I’ve been working on my diet since my 20s mostly for performance for various endurance activities, competitive distance running and similar. I joined the Marines out of high school and the chow was pretty good but lots of meat and dairy. I’m lucky I never fell into the sugary soft drinks trap that gets so many people. When I lived in Chicago eating out (and carry out) was always a temptation with so many good (and bad for you) food options. For the last ~15 years I’ve been mostly plant based, no red meat, with some chicken and pork on occasion, and little dairy. In more recent years I’ve eliminated pizza and all the cured meats and fatty cheese. Cheese was tough b/c I was red wine drinker. I quit drinking cold turkey in February after the Canadian study came out confirming what was mostly obvious at this point about drinking in “moderation”. The meals I prepare at home are plant based, lots of spinach, beans, chickpeas, lentils, legumes, brown rices, cauliflower, broccoli, eggs, etc. I’ve added in recent months nonfat greek yogurt and cottage cheese to my diet to get my protein levels up . I generally try to stay away from multiple ingredient packaged foods.

I feel better than I’ve felt in years and my summit hike times are back down to where they were in my 40s and I’m dead lifting and squatting weight from that time as well and getting stronger. My dad died at 50 of heart disease, strong man, high BP, bad ticker. Ate lots of fatty meat and dairy and processed foods. Turned 54 in July and I’ve outlived my dad and still thriving for the most part. I’ve gleaned a lot of useful longevity info from the Andrew Huberman and PeterAttia podcasts.


Actually the converse! However that said, indeed some, maybe many (but not all) derive pleasure from eating… A dear friend of mine lost the sense of taste after a head injury, and it is very sad that she no longer enjoys food, literally just eating to live, or to keep others company.

Pleasure aka dopamine is at the root of most of the eating dysfunction in the developed world.

And your HiFi is at a lifetime highpoint too! :notes::grinning:

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It’s providing some righteous entertainment currently. :smiley:

My dad thinks he ate well too. He was on high BP meds, didn’t drink, was a heavy smoker though. The results are not so surprising knowing what we know now. Obviously DNA plays a role, my great aunt lived into her 90s and she drank a fifth of gin a week. But I wouldn’t say she was thriving. My hope or plan is to thrive through my marginal decade and have a precipitous death rather than a slow death where I’m miserable for the last 10 or more years of my life. Fingers crossed.


Spot on, they should also lean how to manage budgets. Education should help these kids face life and not just qualifications.


Did Sober October in 2019, was up to 15 stone and at 5’7" and with a knackered left hip things were obviously in a bad way. Long story short, lost 6Kg in the october and have not touched any processed food since, luckily I do not have a sweet tooth so never ate cakes, sweets or biscuuits. 4 years later and I’m still steady at 75Kg (11.5 stone) Had a new Hip in April 2022 which has changed my life and I’m sure my diet helped get me home and out of hospital in 19 hours. I don’t go on about or judge anybody, but I’m astounded at the crap people are prepared to put in side them. My grandchildren live on beige food I would imagine never eating anything that has not been processed. Kind of heart breaking. Doing this October sober as I have a bit of penchant for Red wine, so time to see just how big. So far it’s going well. People keep refering to it as “your diet” but it really was a life style change, one that has been easy to live with.


I have never eaten many highly processed foods, always cooking meals from basic ingredients. When I do eat them I find they are often really sweet or way too salty and generally taste pretty awful.

I think I was fortunate that both my mum and dad enjoyed cooking and whilst I have never had any formal cookery training I absorbed the basics from them and self taught myself the rest. Cooking has always been a form of relaxation for me, after work preparing the evening meal was a good way to complete the transition from work mode to home mode. I would have liked to have done cookery in school but boys were never allowed anywhere near the domestic science rooms in much the same way girls were never allowed near metal or woodwork which even as a teen I thought was sexist excrement.

Having a healthy diet didn’t prevent me from developing cancer though but I think eating healthily and being fit helped me cope better with the treatment and recovery.


Wholly agree education should be about life not qualifications but I am someone who has worked for nearly forty years with benefits claimants, both in and out of work, who are often the subject of crass judgements about what they need to give up on or do more of.

We often come across this business of educating people about budgeting and at the end of the day it’s just people being judgemental. “You’re doing worse than me because you’re rubbish at this.” Massively ironic given that our fundamental issue for the past thirty years has been a growing income crisis. If you’re on Universal Credit it simply doesn’t meet the cost of living. No amount of education on budgeting can fix that.

Similarly now that in work poverty outstrips out of work poverty (again, an income crisis not a cost of living crisis) no amount of education will magic up an income which exceeds expenditure. In both scenarios you can strip expenditure down to the bare minimum and it will still exceed income, which is why we are where we are.

Very interested to read your post @JimDog. I’d be interested to know what level of caffeine input you had and whether you have felt a benefit.

I’ve had decaf tea for a decade now but I’m beginning to think the impact negligible in terms of health. That said I rarely drank more than three or four per day.

There is of course a lot of nonsense written about prebiotics and probiotics and gut health. In that context I was interested to read recently about (yet to be peer reviewed) research which suggested up to 4 cups of black coffee per day appeared to strongly correlate with gut health.

That’s great news.

I’ve done walks in the Lake District with my wife recently that I could not have done a year ago.

I take nothing for granted and am very grateful for each opportunity to stay active.

I loved running all my life, but can’t run because of a groin injury about 6 years ago.

So I focus on low impact activities - cycling, swimming, stretching, low weights, walks.


Interesting - I hate running with a vengeance, and always have. (I opted for cross country at school instead of abysmal rugby or cricket, but was adept at hiding in bushes and taking shortcuts…!) But I love walking (especially hillwalking) and cycling, and swimming though normally reserved for holidays. Also, to me the word ‘gym’ or ‘gymnasium’ engenders overpowering fear of mental and physical torture (courtesy of my secondary school , even after all these decades), so since leaving school I have never, and never will, enter a gym.