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Beware the Ultra-Processed Trap: ICMR Warns Against 'Level C' Foods

The ICMR strongly advises against the overconsumption of "level C" foods. Ultra-processed foods are in this category of food products that have been significantly altered from their original form through various industrial processes. These foods are typically packed with ingredients rarely used in home cooking, such as artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, and other additives designed to enhance flavor, texture, and shelf life. Despite their convenience and taste appeal, these foods pose significant health risks.

High in sugar and fat, yet low in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, ultra-processed foods are calorie-dense but nutritionally poor. This nutritional imbalance can lead to various health issues, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. The convenience and palatability of these foods often result in overconsumption, further exacerbating their negative health impacts.

Common Ultra-Processed Foods

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the following items fall into the "Group C" category of ultra-processed foods:

  • Commercially Produced Bread and Breakfast Cereals: Often laden with added sugars and preservatives.

  • Cakes, Chips, and Biscuits: High in unhealthy fats and sugars, and low in nutritional value.

  • Fries and Jams: Typically, high in trans fats and sugars, respectively.

  • Sauces and Mayonnaise: Contain preservatives, emulsifiers, and often excessive salt.

  • Commercially Produced Ice Cream and Protein Powders: High in added sugars and artificial ingredients.

  • Peanut Butter and Soy Chunks: May include added sugars, salts, and preservatives.

  • Tofu and Frozen Foods with Additives: Often contain additives to enhance texture and shelf life.

  • Commercially Produced Cheese, Butter, and Paneer with Additives: Include preservatives and artificial coloring.

  • Processed Meats and Plant-Based Meats: Typically contain high levels of sodium and preservatives.

  • Refined Flours of Cereals, Millets, and Legumes: Stripped of natural fiber and nutrients during processing.

  • Energy Drinks and Health Drinks Added to Milk: High in added sugars and artificial ingredients.

  • Beverages and Fruit Juices: Often contain added sugars and lack the fiber found in whole fruits.


Given the potential health risks, it is essential to be mindful of the consumption of ultra-processed foods. Opting for whole, minimally processed foods rich in natural nutrients can help maintain better health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Making small changes, such as preparing meals at home with fresh ingredients and reading food labels to avoid additives, can make a significant difference in overall well-being.

Source - The times of India, Entertainment times and ICMR



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