Much of the food from U.S. grocery stores is not just processed, it is “ultra” processed according to a new study. The food that U.S. consumers have available is far more ultra-processed than consumers in other western industrialized countries like Australia. Since 80% of total calorie consumption of the average U.S. consumer comes from store-bought foods and beverages, the fact that so much of the food on U.S. grocery store shelves is “ultra-processed” is a public health concern.
Using crowd-sourced data and the NOVA Food Classification system researchers analyzed 230,156 products from grocery stores across the U.S. They found an alarming 71% of products such as bread, salad dressings, snack foods, sweets, sugary drinks and other items were ultra-processed. Among the top 25 manufacturers by sales volume, 86% of products were classified as ultra-processed.
Why you should care
Why should it matter that so much of the ‘food’ in the U.S. is highly processed? The reason is because highly processed or ‘ultra-processed’ foods are not real food at all, but industrial formulations made entirely or mostly from substances like hydrogenated fats, modified starch and synthetic and industrialized chemical additives (preservatives, dyes, flavorings, emulsifiers, etc.). In short, this fake food is lacking in what our bodies need most: nutrition.
There is no reason U.S. consumers need to feel helpless about these findings because no one is being forced to buy this stuff. There has been a movement online to share recipes and tips for creating your own homemade snacks, condiments, drinks and meals for over a decade now and free recipes and low-cost cookbooks (including used versions for as low as three dollars) are readily available.
Don’t know how to cook? Not a problem. If you can read and follow directions you are good to go. Seek out cookbooks and recipes labeled “for beginners”. Once you become comfortable with the process (usually after just a few weeks) you can begin experimenting with adding and mixing spices and flavors and then branch out to intermediate level recipes. Within a half year or so you may well be ready to move up to full-on sophisticated food prep recipes. What’s more, your food will taste so good you will find it hard to believe that you ate all that additive-laden, starch-salt-and-sugar drenched, nutrition-depleted fake food for so long. Just as important, before you know it, your body will begin to respond positively to the natural, whole foods (and nutrients!) you are giving it and any cravings you experienced on the ultra-processed fake food diet will be only a distant memory.
Journal Reference: Abigail S. Baldridge, Mark D. Huffman, Fraser Taylor, Dagan Xavier, Brooke Bright, Linda V. Van Horn, Bruce Neal, Elizabeth Dunford. The Healthfulness of the US Packaged Food and Beverage Supply: A Cross-Sectional Study. Nutrients, 2019; 11 (8): 1704. Overview / Study DOI: 10.3390/nu11081704
Find out more about how you can transition to healthy eating from preparing your own meals and snacks, including easy, delicious recipes and tips for how to stock up on kitchen utensils and food prep items (like graters) on a shoestring here:
The Food Hacker’s Handbook: A Guide to Breaking the Processed Foods and Additives Addiction
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