(NewsNation) – A significant portion of Americans’ diets are processed foods, often unnoticed. Even foods perceived as healthy are processed for ease, affordability and convenience.
However, health workers warn that excessive consumption of processed foods can pose health problems.
“The longer the ingredients when you see things with added sugar or things you can’t pronounce, the more there are, the more the process goes,” explained nutritionist Carrie Lupoli.
These include products containing sugar, salt and saturated fat, including bacon, hot dogs, lunch meats, ice cream, cereal, soda and some yogurts.
“They are associated with a higher risk of obesity, depression, heart disease, stroke and premature death in general,” said Dr. Michael Greger. “Surprisingly, on average in the United States more than half of calories come from these ultra-processed foods, which means more than half of our diet is junk food.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently revealed that it is possible to have a healthy diet with more than 90 percent of calories coming from ultra-processed foods, and that not all processed foods are created equal; for example, processed oat flour retains whole grains.
“As much as we should look to whole foods, proteins and healthy fats, and yes, healthy vegetables and fruits, we want all of that; we can still do it. So if the best thing is something that’s packaged and processed but is higher in protein, if protein is the first ingredient, you’ll do better,” said Jorge Cruise, author of “The Hunger Eraser.”
Although nutritionists advocate for healthier options, they recognize the cost factor.
“Especially when it comes to money for food and especially when it comes to how skinny people feel if it’s something you have to do to put food on your family’s table , by all means,” said nutrition speaker and clinician Allison Arnett. program coordinator at the University of New Haven.
Nutritionists say there are several affordable alternatives to replace your favorite junk food, but it may require some research.