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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Pizza Ranks as America’s Top Comfort Food

Most of us turn to food as a source of comfort. Just imagine coming home from a hectic day at work, switching off your phone, cooking or ordering your favorite comfort food, and curling up in front of the TV with no interruptions – sounds fabulous, right?

harris poll top comfort food america pizza

America’s Top Comfort Food

Now, there could be a debate that there are other stress busters out there. To get a definitive answer, The Harris Poll recently conducted a study where 53% of Americans admitted that they eat more under stress while 67% said they opt for their preferred comfort food to think their way through during tough times. What’s surprising is they don’t feel guilty in doing so! So what emerged as the king of comfort food in America?

Hold on…it is…pizza! That’s right; the survey included 2,252 U.S. adults and won by a whopping 15%, which is more than twice as many votes than any other food choice. Chocolate and ice cream scored second place at 7% each, Mac & cheese came in at 5%, and chips finished at 4%. Strangely, pizza was selected by most people when demographics including gender, generation, and geographic region were evaluated. Barring people over 70 who preferred ice cream, pizza is a clear winner!

But Wait…

While pizza might be the ultimate comfort food, it is not the best option for all situations. For instance, Americans would prefer soup instead if they are sick – the figures say that 39% want soup with an extra 22% wishing for chicken noodle soup. This is true across all key demographics. Ice cream, toast, and pizza come to 3%, 2%, and 2% respectively when sick. During celebration time, 22% adults wish for steak and 12% opt for cake. To round out the top five: pizza, lobster, and other types of seafood at 7%, 4%, and 3% respectively.

Is Comfort Food Only For Bad Days?

Although some would argue that stress, bad days, and depression sort of complement each other, the comfort food dynamics might show a different picture. 45% of the Americans in the study choose comfort food when they are stressed, 43% after a tough day at work, and 33% during a depression. However, not everyone needs to be down in the dumps to dig into their favorite comfort food. It can happen on a good day for 38% while 37% may do it on their birthday.

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Can We Make Comfort Food Better For You?

We all have good days and bad days. Sometimes we need a little comfort food in our lives. But does comfort food have to be so bad for us? At NutriFusion, we believe that comfort food can be made better for us. We are not saying, you should eat it every day if it’s healthier, but it wouldn’t penalize your health so much when you do eat it.

Michael Pollan says food is not healthy it’s nutritious. Somewhere down the line, we lost sight of that in the food industry. We started to strip away the nutrition in our products and fortify them with man-made, synthetic, chemical nutrition. NutriFusion developed a product to change the packaged food and nutrition industry forever. Our patented method stabilizes the nutrients (vitamins and minerals) in fruits and vegetables so that processed food companies can easily add living nutrition to their products. We believe our products are not a substitute for eating fruits and vegetables, but a better for you alternative as the majority of Americans transition to eating healthier. Learn more about NutriFusion for you category below:

Reduced Diversity in Processed Foods Leads to Obesity

A researcher has claimed that obesity and cancer are not only a result of high-fat content, sugar, and salt in our diet but also the lack of diversity in our diets. Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at the King’s College London, believes we are restricting our diets to processed foods with fewer ingredients. He thinks processed foods are responsible for the decrease in diversity of microbes in our guts.

Limiting Our Diets to Fewer Ingredients

Consumption of junk food is known by many as a big health risk, mainly due to saturated fats, high calories, chemicals, artificial colors, and sugar. 80% of processed foods are made up of four main ingredients: corn, wheat, soy, and meat. When compared to what our ancestors consumed, it is way too low. It is estimated that they consumed around 150 ingredients every week, something that we do not even come close to doing.

Studies have shown that it is the proliferation of a particular type of bacteria in our guts that are fueling the craving for junk food. The craving is leading to overconsumption, something that is definitely to blame for the high incidences of obesity, cancer, diabetes, and other lifestyle conditions. Literature suggests that each type of microbe in our gut prefers a given type of food, when it is deprived of that food, the bacteria is capable of doing anything to ensure it survives, the action can include signaling for more food intake.

Less Processed Foods, More Real Foods

low-calorie foods 1We have to fight back against these deadly lifestyle diseases and that starts with what we eat. At this point in humanity, it would be crazy to completely eliminate processed foods, but we have to eat less of them. We need to focus on consuming more real foods like our ancestors. As mentioned above, we need to eat a variety of ingredients. One should eat foods which are rich in fiber and consume adequate fresh fruits and vegetables. Manufacturers are also urged to reformulate their products in order to boost the diversity of ingredients in their products. Companies must accept that a majority of their foods are causing more harm than good, and should focus on improving the health of their customers as they move forward in creating products.

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