After you finish your grocery shopping, look at the items in your cart.
If you're like the average American, fully 60 percent of the calories in that cart are from highly-processed foods, making it the biggest chunk of calories in our diet, according to researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
It gets worse. These foods--from chips to cookies--tend to have more fat, sugar and salt than less-processed foods.
Highly-processed foods include ready-to-heat meals, white bread, cookies, chips, bacon, soda and candy. Unprocessed or minimally-processed foods include fresh or frozen vegetables, fresh meat, milk, eggs and dried beans.
The study: Led by UNC researcher Jennifer Poti, the team analyzed at least one year of grocery store purchases made by more than 157,000 households between 2000 and 2012 for a total of 1.2 million items. The average amount of time in the study for each participant was four years.
- During the 12-year study period, the proportion of calories purchased in highly-processed foods remained steady at 61 percent to 62.5 percent.
- There was a significant increase in the proportion of calories bought in ready-to-heat foods, such as frozen meals, that hit more than 15 percent in 2012.
While highly-processed foods are tasty, convenient and affordable, the combination of sugar, fat, salt and flavoring in these foods promotes overeating and contributes to obesity, noted Poti.
The study findings, which are still considered preliminary, were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.
--From the Editors at Netscape