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    They contain most of the added sugar in the U.S. diet, researchers add

    By Steven Reinberg

    HealthDay Reporter

    WEDNESDAY, March 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of the average American diet is composed of so-called ultra-processed foods, a new study finds.

    And these foods make up 90 percent of the excess sugar calories that Americans consume, the researchers reported.

    Ultra-processed foods are concoctions of several ingredients, including salt, sugar, oils and fats. They also contain chemicals not generally used in cooking, such as flavorings, emulsifiers and other additives designed to mimic real foods, the researchers said.

    "Decreasing the consumption of ultra-processed foods may be an effective way of reducing the excessive added sugar intake in the U.S.," said lead researcher Euridice Martinez Steele. She's from the department of nutrition in the School of Public Health at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

    Ultra-processed foods include sodas, sweet or savory packaged snacks, candy and desserts, packaged baked goods, instant noodles and soups, and reconstituted meat products, such as chicken and fish nuggets, she said.

    By contrast, "processed" foods are foods made with added salt, sugar or other substances normally used in food to unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as canned foods or simple breads and cheese, the study authors said.

    Too much sugar increases the risk for weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay, Steele said.

    "There is one relatively simple way to avoid excessive added sugar -- not replacing real food, such as minimally processed foods and freshly-prepared dishes and meals, with ultra-processed food and drink products," she said.

    In other words, drink water, pasteurized fresh milk and freshly squeezed fruit juices. And, don't drink soft drinks, sweetened milk drinks and reconstituted, flavored fruit juices.

    People should avoid products that don't require preparation, such as packaged soups, instant noodles, prepared frozen dishes and sandwiches, cold cuts and sausages, ready-to-eat sauces and cake mixes, Steele said.

    The report was published online March 9 in the journal BMJ Open.

    The researchers reviewed information from more than 9,000 people. They all took part in the 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Study volunteers provided information about their diets.

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