These ?formulations? include (among so many other things) breakfast cereals, instant soup, soft drinks, and frozen meals. Using data from more than 9,000 people who participated in a nationally representative survey, the researchers found that 57.9 percent of people?s calorie intake, on average, came from ultra-processed foods. Minimally processed or unprocessed foods?meat, plants, eggs, pasta, milk?accounted for 29.6 percent. Processed (but not ultra-processed) foods?canned or preserved foods, cheeses?accounted for 9.4 percent. The rest (2.9 percent) was ?processed culinary ingredients? such as vegetable oil, table salt, and sugar.
Part of the reason this ratio is so troubling is that ultra-processed foods account for almost all of the added sugars Americans eat?90 percent, to be specific. Added sugar (that is, any sugar not naturally occurring in a food) has recently become even more of a target for elimination from people?s diets. The most recent U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that people get less than 10 percent of their calories from added sugars. In this study, the average was 14 percent?292.2 added sugar calories out of the 2069.5 daily total.
?The risk of exceeding the recommended upper limit of 10 percent energy from added sugars was far higher when ultra-processed food consumption was high,? the researchers write, suggesting that the best way for people to adhere to the new guidelines may be by focusing on cutting out some of these ultra-processed foods. Much of the problem, they say, is that the ultra-processed sugar bombs are replacing ?more nutrient-dense foods,? and leaving people ?simultaneously overfed and undernourished.? If you want one easy target to start with, by far the worst offenders are sodas and sugary fruit drinks. There’s no Pollan-esque mantra for beverages, but if it helps I’ll make one up for you now: Drink liquids, not too sugary, mostly water.
More Than Half of What Americans Eat Is ‘Ultra-Processed’ – The Atlantic