Is Your Diet C.R.A.P.: Calorie Rich and Processed?

shutterstock_375769042A recent study found that the greatest percentage of calories in the United States Diet are indeed made up of C.R.A.P., calorie rich and processed foods. They also concluded that C.R.A.P. foods have a positive linear correlation to our sugar intake.  Interpretation: the more ultra processed food we consume, the higher our sugar consumption.  This is probably not surprising and I think we all suspect that those same researchers could go back and find a similar connection between ultra processed foods and the percentage of heart clogging saturated fat and blood pressure raising sodium in our diet. The shocker for me is that our diets are just a few points shy of being 60 percent C.R.A.P. or 57.9% to be exact.

Researchers used the results of the 2009-2010 National Health and Examination Survey.  They analyzed 24 hour dietary recalls from the 9317 participants over one year of age and classified foods into four categories using the NOVA system to define extend of food processing.

Percent NOVA Category Definition and Examples
2.90% Processed Culinary Ingredients Substances extracted from food or nature and used in cooking such as table sugar, oil, herbs and spices.
9.40% Processed Foods Unprocessed or minimally processed foods such as canned foods, simple breads and cheese
29.60% Unprocessed or                                           Minimally Processed Fresh, dry or frozen fruits or vegetables, grains, legumes, meat, fish and milk
57.90% Ultra Processed Formulations of several ingredients including flavors, colors, sweeteners and other additives that imitate unprocessed foods or disguise undesirable properties in a final product. Examples include cereal, canned soup and frozen prepared meals.

Almost 90 percent of the sugar intake (89.7%) came from the ultra-processed foods.

  • 17.1% Soft Drinks
  • 13.9% Fruit Drinks
  • 11.2% Cakes, Cookies, Pies
  • 7.6% Breads
  • 7.3% Desserts
  • 7.1% Sweet Snacks
  • 6.4% Breakfast Cereals
  • 5.9% Ice Cream and Ice Pops
  • 4.6% Milk Based Drinks

Only 8.75 percent of the sugar intake came from sugar added at the table or prepared in foods made from scratch.

Why is this a problem? 

The results from this research showed that participants averaged 14 percent of their total calories from added sugars, well over the recommended 10 percent limit recommended by The World Health Organization and 2015 Dietary Guidelines.  Added sugars increase our risk for unhealthy forms of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and cavities.  While many of these foods are obvious sources of sugar, some foods that make it into your cart and onto your table are hidden.  Both sources replace foods that are more nutrient dense and contribute to a healthier aging process where we are strong, independent, disease free (or well-managed) and faculties intact.  To learn more about the impact of sugar on your health and identify sources of hidden sugar, check out or view the following posts.  It’s easier than you think.

The Impact of Sugar on Your Heart 

In Your Cart: Hidden Sources of Sugar

Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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