Nearly half of the calories consumed by Canadians every day come from “ultra-processed” foods, according to a report released Wednesday (Nov. 18) by Statistics Canada.
Researchers studied Canadians’ diets in 2015 and found that 46 per cent of their calories came from ultra-processed foods such as soft drinks, instant noodles, packaged cookies and snacks, and fast-food and frozen meals.
The 2015 figures were down slightly from 2004, when ultra-processed food made up 48 per cent of Canadian diets.
Researchers noted that although most foods are somewhat processed, ultra-processed refers to foods that are “mainly formulations of industrial ingredients, plus additives, and contain little whole foods, if any.” These include soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages, sweet and savoury packaged snacks, mass-produced industrial breads, reconstituted meat products such as burgers and hot dogs, and fast-food and frozen dishes.
The slight dip in ultra-processed food consumption between 2004 and 2015 is due to fewer soft drinks, fruit juices and fruit drinks.
“Children over age five and adolescents remained the highest consumers of ultra-processed foods in both years, on average consuming more than 50 per cent of total energy from these foods,” the report stated. “The study also found that older adults over age 54 were the only age group to consume proportionally more energy from ultra-processed foods in 2015 than in 2004.”
A mounting body of evidence links ultra-processed foods to a higher risk of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Canada’s Food Guide recommends limiting consumption of highly processes foods and drinks.
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