Do people consume more calories from foods if they’re ultra-processed or if they’re soft?

Scientists allowed 18 adults to eat as much as they wanted from 288 meals with foods that were:

  • ultra-processed and soft,
  • ultra-processed and hard,
  • unprocessed and soft, or
  • unprocessed and hard.

(For example, apple pieces were considered “unprocessed” and “hard,” while applesauce and apple juice were “ultra-processed” and “soft.”)

On average, the volunteers consumed 570 fewer calories per day—that is, 33 percent fewer calories—when they ate hard foods rather than soft foods. Ultra-processing had no effect on how many calories they ate.

And their eating rate—that is, how much food they ate per minute—was 46 percent faster when eating soft foods.

What to do

To curb calories, look for firmer—but still healthy—foods. Among the best: most fresh fruits and vegetables.

More on processed foods