Between fast food, pre-packaged frozen meals, and bags of chips, it’s no secret that Americans can’t get enough of their processed foods.
According to a new study from the University of São Paulo in Brazil, the American diet is comprised of more than 57 percent ultra-processed foods.
“Processed” isn’t necessarily an evil term: It just means that the natural state of the food went through some form of process. Technically a bag of ice is processed water, and frozen vegetables with no additives are also processed. But ultra-processed foods are defined in the study as “food substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular, flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product.” We’re talking packaged junk food, boxed cereals, fruit juices, frozen meals, and processed meats like salami.
Ultra-processed foods also account for 90 percent of the sugar we eat, according to the study.
“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 said. “People are left simultaneously overfed and undernourished.”
Researchers recommend cutting out most ultra-processed foods from your diet.