American Society of Nutrition's Statement on Processed Foods Sparks Intense Debate

A position statement made from the American Society of Nutrition is ruffling a lot of feathers, and it is worth taking a closer look to see what the fuss is about.

Notably, in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), the American Society of Nutrition (ASN) said that processed foods make up an essential part of the American diet.

Nutrition experts from all over the United States and beyond reacted strongly to the statement, but the primary issue is the lack of any effort to distinguish minimally processed foods and highly processed foods. The ASN's definition of 'processed foods' includes everything from washing, packaging and freezing fruits and vegetables to processes that add sugars and preservatives to cookies and frozen pizzas.

Clearly, that's a very broad definition. The ASN took its definition of processed foods from the International Food Information Council. They noted that foods that fall under this definition provide major proportions of many beneficial nutrients in the American diet, including dietary fiber, potassium, iron, folate and vitamin D.

They also noted that these foods have contributed 75 percent of the added sugars Americans eat, along with 52 percent of the saturated fats, and 57 percent of the sodium—all red flags for diabetics.

The ASN defended itself by arguing that "Many staples in the diet, such as bread, cheese and wine, bear little or no resemblance to their starting commodities and are highly processed and prepared but are often not regarded as 'processed' by consumers," but this defense has not proven adequate.

Regardless, this is an important discussion to have. Let's hope something productive comes of it.

Photo: Today, Cross Fit Eternal

Many have a problem with the ASN's definition of processed food.