A small study shows that more than half of all calories consumed in America come from unhealthy foods. Usually, nutritionists break down foods into classic categories such as fruits, veggies, and proteins. But the latest study is the first to break down calories by their origin into those derived from processed foods and those from non-processed foods.
Processed foods are very present in the American diet since they are now the source of 57.9 percent of all calories on America’s food plates. According to the new study, processed foods are foods that contain chemical compounds that are now used in home-made foods such as enhancers that mimic sensorial qualities of natural foods.
These enhancers, also known as food additives, make foods incredibly appetizing by enhancing taste, smell, and texture. Study authors provided even a list with the foods that are usually processed: sodas, fruit juice, pies, cookies, snacks, frozen dishes or foods that have a long shelf life, breakfast cereals, burgers, and pizzas.
Researchers also found that fruit, milk, and meat were the foods that were less likely to be processed, while foods containing added sugar and fats had the highest chances of being processed.
The new research also revealed that processed foods are not only the source of nearly 60 percent of all calories eaten in America, but they are also the main source of added sugar in Americans’ diets.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sees added sugar in processed foods an issue of public health since extra sugar can lead to a series of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
In 2015, new FDA rules were set in place forcing the food industry to mention on food labels the percent daily value of sugar in their products. So, now at least we have a minimal idea on how bad for health a specific food is.
But when buying processed foods you should also look for trans fats and salt content not only added sugar. Trans fats and extra salt are the two main reasons people are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Trans fats are used by the food industry to add extra moisture to processed foods such as muffins, microwave popcorn, snacks, and the French fries from your local fast-food restaurant.
Trans fats were initially touted as a healthy and a much cheaper alternative to butter, vegetable oil and lard, but a plethora of studies had revealed that trans fats are a disaster. Up to 100,000 heart-disease-related deaths are associated with trans fat consumption every year.
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