Americans Eating More “Highly Processed Foods”
Americans are consuming more fat, sugar and salt. A new study revealed Americans are buying more processed and “convenient” foods. Those choices account for more than 60 percent of the calories in products that are routinely purchased in grocery stores.
“Overall, we found that not only are highly processed foods a dominant, stable part of U.S. purchasing patterns, but also that the highly processed foods that [US] households are purchasing are higher in fat, sugar and salt, on average, compared to the less-processed foods that they buy,” said study author Jennifer Poti, a research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Participants took part in a study and collectively bought 1.2 million items. Poti’s team analyzed purchases by more than 157,000 households between 2000 and 2012.
Highly processed foods include items like prepared meals, white bread, cookies, chips, soda and candy. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods include fresh or frozen vegetables, fresh meat, milk, eggs and dried beans.
From 2000 to 2012, the proportion of calories bought in highly processed foods remained stable at 61 percent to 62.5 percent.
There was a significant increase in the proportion of calories bought in ready-to-heat foods (such as frozen meals), reaching more than 15 percent in 2012, the investigators found.
“Many Americans have strongly held opinions and beliefs about processed foods,” Poti said in the news release.
“Some consider processed foods to be tasty, convenient and affordable choices while others contend that the combination of sugar, fat, salt and flavoring in these foods promotes overeating and contributes to obesity. But until now, we didn’t really have the evidence needed to settle this debate,” she added.
Poti said there is a need to distinguish between processed and highly processed foods.
“It is important that when we discuss processed foods, we acknowledge that many processed foods, such as canned vegetables or whole-grain breakfast cereals, are important contributors to nutrition and food security. However, it is the highly processed foods . . . that might potentially be related to obesity,” Poti said