The Power of Processed Foods!

The Lempert Report
June 09, 2015

We may like to think we favor kale and fresh produce, but apparently American’s mostly buy highly processed foods loaded with sugar, fat and salt!

According to a new study we’re all cheating with processed foods! Recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that 61% of the food Americans buy is highly processed and almost 1,000 calories a day of person’s diet come solely from highly processed foods.

In the first study of its kind, scientists researched our diets by analyzing a data of the foods we buy at the supermarket. The stats came from 157,000 shoppers, who tracked their edible purchases with a barcode scanner from 2000-2012, for anywhere from 10 months to 14 years.

The USDA labels processed food as anything that’s not a raw agricultural commodity and study author Jennifer Poti, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill clarifies; “It’s important for us to recognize that a processed food is not just Coca-Cola and Twinkies—it’s a wide array of products.” So, foods were placed into one of four categories: minimally processed—products with very little alteration, like bagged salad, frozen meat and eggs—basic processed—single-ingredient foods but changed in some way, like oil, flour and sugar—moderately processed—still recognizable as its original plant or animal source, but with additives—and highly processed—multi-ingredient industrial mixtures that are no longer recognizable as their original plant or animal source.

Any idea what our favorites were? You guessed it! Moderately processed and highly processed!   More than three-quarters of our calories came from highly processed (61%) and moderately processed (16%) foods and drinks in 2012. Best-selling products were refined breads, grain-based desserts like cookies, sugary sodas, juice, sports drinks and energy drinks.

At a time when consumers are losing faith in “big companies” – now might be a good time for supermarket to clarify and make note of what consumers say they want and what they’re really buying.  There’s a trend towards healthier foods, yet processed foods are coming out on top. Perhaps consumers need some guidance over what they tend to pick up through habit and some tips on how to make better choices and put healthier products in their basket.