The results from two decades worth of research show that ultra-processed foods comprise 2/3 of the calories in adolescents’ diets.
Senior and corresponding author Fang Fang Zhang, nutrition epidemiologist at the Friedman School, said, “Some whole-grain breads and dairy foods are ultra-processed, and they’re healthier than other ultra-processed foods. Processing can keep food fresher longer, allows for food fortification and enrichment, and enhances consumer convenience. But many ultra-processed foods are less healthy, with more sugar and salt, and less fiber, than unprocessed and minimally processed foods, and the increase in their consumption by children and teenagers is concerning.’’
Thus, the largest spikes in calories came from ready-to-eat meals like pizza, frozen meals, and take-out, as well as packaged snacks and desserts.
Data showed a larger spike in ultra-processed calories in Black adolescents’ diet. The study stated that more research is needed to properly identify why this is the case. Conversely, Mexican American adolescents consumed less ultra-processed foods, which researchers speculate could be due to more homecooked meals.
The study’s first author, Lu Wang, a postdoctoral fellow at the Friedman School, said, “In additional analyses, we compared the composition of ultra-processed foods to non-ultra processed foods using data from the 2017-2018 period. We found that ultra-processed foods contain a substantially higher percentage of calories from carbohydrates and added sugars, and higher levels of sodium, but also had less fiber and a lower percentage of calories from protein.”
Ultra-processed foods are classified as ready-to-eat foods that have been heavily processed. Many are much higher in carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar. While lacking basic nutrition like protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!