Use the new NOVA classification of foods to shed a few pounds.

There are many different diets out there to help people lose weight but some of them are complicated. Is there a simple and healthy way to weight loss?

An effective way to lose weight is to use the NOVA classification of foods.

Here is a personal example:

My husband and I have very different ways of eating.

My breakfast is one fruit, typically one peach, one apple, or one orange, my lunch is a mix of lettuce (sprinkled with fresh parsley, fresh French tarragon and dill), half an avocado with fresh squeezed lemon, two radishes, a raw carrot, part of a cucumber, half a bell pepper, a couple of fresh Crimini mushrooms, and a few unsalted almonds, walnuts, or pecans.

Dinner is very often a piece of grilled fish or grilled chicken with a large portion of steamed broccoli, green beans or brussels sprouts sprinkled with fresh rosemary and thyme.

My dessert is a cup of plain unsweetened low-fat organic yogurt with half a cup of berries sprinkled in them. I drink hot water. My weight is 100 lbs for 5’3.

My husband’s breakfast is waffles (made from a premix) with sugar-free low-calorie maple-flavored syrup. His lunch is based on salami, pepperoni or meat sticks, his dinner varies and is often healthy but left on his own, he would eat 2 hot spicy Italian sausages with vegetable chips. His favorite drinks are diet sodas. My husband could benefit from, well, losing a few pounds.

We are at both extremes of the NOVA classification of foods. The NOVA classification described by Carlos Augusto Monteiro from the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil classifies foods according to whether they are processed or not (Public Health Nutrition-April 2019).

NOVA 1 includes fruits and vegetables that are not processed (what I eat), NOVA 4 are ultra-processed foods (what my husband eats). NOVA 2 and 3 are not as processed as Nova 4, but more processed than Nova 1.

Ultra-processed foods often contain high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, hydrolyzed proteins, artificial flavors, flavor enhancers, colorants, thickeners, emulsifiers, sweeteners, foaming, carbonating, bulking, gelling or glazing agents. Their advantages are that they are cheap, ready-to-consume, hyper-palatable, have a long shelf life and–thanks to their long shelf lives–are readily available in every grocery store.

What’s not to like?

Yet, recent studies link ultra-processed foods to health problems.

Studies link ultra-processed foods to obesity:

Monteiro studied the availability of ultra-processed foods (Nova 4) in 19 European countries and their relationship with obesity. Monteiro concluded that “a significant positive association was found between national household availability of ultra-processed foods and national prevalence of obesity among adults.” Similar studies were done in Canada and in Brazil with the same conclusion.

Kevin Hall and colleagues (Cell Metabolism July 2019) exposed 20 people to ultra-processed foods for 2 weeks then non-processed foods for the 2 following weeks. They describe that the people exposed to ultra-processed foods gained weight for the first 2 weeks then lost weight the following 2 weeks (eating non-processed foods). They concluded that ultra-processed foods lead to more calorie intake and increase weight gain compared to non-processed foods.

What other risks could ultra-processed foods be linked to?

The risk of ultra-processed foods could not only be weight gain but also cardiovascular disease and cancer: French studies done on 104,980 participants between 2009 and 2017 (published in 2018 and 2019 in the British Medical Journal) show that increasing the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease and a significant increase in all cancers.

What do we make of this?

We need to remember that the fact that ultra-processed foods are associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer doesn’t mean that they are the cause of them. Association doesn’t mean causation.

Nevertheless, I urge people to stick to fresh fruits, salads and vegetables (raw, steamed or pan-fried) and to stay away from ultra-processed foods (containing high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, hydrolyzed proteins, flavor enhancers, colorants, thickeners, emulsifiers, sweeteners, foaming, carbonating, gelling or glazing agents), especially when it comes to feeding children.

So, make sure you look at the ingredient list of every food you buy, spend most of your time in the fresh products aisle and start cooking.

Cooking vegetables with fresh garlic, onion, fresh rosemary, thyme, and other fresh products can be very rewarding for three reasons: The taste will be incredible, the health benefits priceless and you will lose weight.

But if you don’t want to spend time cooking, eat fruits…

After all, what tastes better than a ripe peach, a mango or some fresh strawberries?