The Problem with American Diets: Ultra-Processed Foods

With all the food fads rallying for healthier food, the emphasis on “natural” foods and ingredients is now more important than ever. However, the changing food trends have done little to affect the diet of the average American. 58% of the calorie intake of Americans comes from ultra-processed foods according to a study was featured in BJM Open, a medical journal.

The Average American Diet

While the government has done its best to introduce guidelines, consumers continue to choose processed snacks, frozen foods, artificially sweetened desserts, and drinks. The Centre for Disease Control conducted a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey to record the food eating patterns of Americans. The research involved tracking the food items the candidates had eaten in the last 24 hours. It was found that out of all the calories consumed by the survey-takers, three from every five calories consumed came from ultra-processed food. Almost 30% of calories came from unprocessed and partially processed foods, ingredients like oil and salt made up 2.9% of the whole, and 10% came from canned and packaged food like cheese, meat, and vegetables. The statistics suggest that the consumption of ultra-processed foods is far greater and forms a significant chunk of the average American diet.

The Link Between Sugar & Ultra-Processed Foods

A recent dietary guideline introduced by the government suggested limiting the intake of added sugar in the American diet. Ultra-processed foods contain artificial flavors, colors, aromas, and sweeteners. 14% of the overall calories in ultra-processed foods come from sugar and added sweeteners. An increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods leads to an increase in the use of sugar too. Therefore, ultra-processed foods are primarily responsible for Americans crossing the suggested 10% limit on added sugar in the diet.


The Problem With Consumer Choices

While “healthy” and “natural” foods are in popular demand, consumers’ food choices in the market don’t reflect that need. Manufacturers continue to introduce healthy alternatives of food products to appeal to the health conscious, but consumers continue to pick salty snacks and products loaded with sweeteners. Many food brands have created new profiles and products to appeal to the new health-conscious consumer. However, if the food choices continue to lean towards ultra-processed foods, have any of the new products, and new guidelines helped Americans eat more healthy and nutritious food?

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