If you're like the average American, more than half of your diet is filled with\u00a0processed foods. Many of these foods are full of added sugar and fat and contribute to overweight and obesity. This matters for cancer prevention, because obesity is linked\u00a0to higher risk, and a healthy diet links to lower risk for many common cancers, as well as\u00a0other chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.\n\nA study published recently\u00a0reports alarming\u00a0results\u00a0on how much\u00a0of the super processed foods Americans are eating,\u00a0and how that affects\u00a0nutrition, calories and the\u00a0overall healthfulness of our nation's diet.\n\nThe researchers established\u00a0three categories for describing various levels of food processing: Unprocessed or minimally processed foods (like vegetables, beans, milk, pasta), other foods (cheese, pickled foods, nut butters for example), and ultra-processed foods (like soft drinks, cookies, salty snacks, french fries). Then, using\u00a0diet data from over 9,000 participants in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), they compared the diets high in ultra-processed foods to diets with more unprocessed and minimally processed\u00a0foods. They looked at calories, nutrients and overall diet quality at different\u00a0levels of processed food consumption.\n\n\n\nThe\u00a0study found that on average:\n\n\n\n \tmore than one-half of calories came from ultra-processed foods\n\n \tless than one-third of calories were from unprocessed or minimally processed foods\n\n \tabout\u00a012 percent of calories came from the other foods category.\n\n\n\nThe more\u00a0ultra-processed foods Americans\u00a0ate, the less\u00a0protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, D and E, potassium and calcium they got. And they had\u00a0more added sugars, saturated fat and overall carbohydrates in their diets.\n\nConversely, those with higher amounts of unprocessed\/minimally processed foods and fewer ultra-processed foods had overall higher diet quality, with more nutrients like fiber, potassium and vitamin C, and less added sugars and saturated fat.\n\n\n\nThis study makes it clear that these ultra-processed foods, even with some nutrient fortification, cannot deliver the many healthful components of\u00a0minimally processed foods. And they add a load of extra calories with little to no nutrient value. The occasional fries, chips and candy can fit into a healthy diet, but if they become staples, your health will suffer and you'll be at higher risk for weight gain and other chronic diseases.\n\nTake steps\u00a0toward a healthier diet by following AICR's New American Plate\u00a0model.