Half of calories consumed by Brazilians found to come from fresh food

Processed and ultraprocessed food consumption has been on the rise

Published in 03/04/2020 - 13:26 By Ana Cristina Campos* - Rio de Janeiro

Around half (49.5%) of the total calories available for consumption in Brazilian households comes from fresh or minimally processed foods, 22.3 percent from processed ingredients, 9.8 percent from processed foods, 18.4 percent from ultraprocessed foods. The consumption of food at home is estimated to account for at least 70 percent of the total amount of calories eaten by Brazilians.

The data come from a study entitled Pesquisa de Orçamentos Familiares – POF 2017-2018: Avaliação Nutricional da Disponibilidade Domiciliar de Alimentos no Brasil ("Survey on Family Bugets 2017–2018: A Nutritional Assessment of the Household Availability of Foods in Brazil"), released Friday (Apr. 3) by the government’s statistics agency IBGE.

“We observe, therefore, the prevalence of food consumption based on fresh foodstuffs and culinary preparations,” the agency states.

Regional differences

In the North and Northeast, in rural areas and among families with lower income, the proportion of fresh, minimally processed food, and foods with culinary ingredients was even higher, and surpassed three quarters of the household availability of food.

The study shows that the South and the Southeast and among families with higher income, even though fresh, minimally processed food, and foods with culinary ingredients prevail, ultraprocessed foods represent over a fifth of the calories eaten at home. In the North, the Northeast, and the Central-West, ultraprocessed foods account for 11.4, 11.4, and 16.6 percent of the total of calories, respectively.

“The evolution of household availability of food in Brazil from 2002 to 2018 indicates that  fresh, minimally processed food, and foods with culinary ingredients, despite being predominant, have lost ground to processed foods and more dramatically to ultraprocessed foods,” the study reads.

However, the survey also found that, although the proportion of ultraprocessed in the household has seen a continuous increase, the trend was reported to undergo a slowdown, with a yearly increase of 0.6 percentage points in the percentage of calories from ultraprocessed foods between 2002 and 2003 and between 2008 and 2009, and a 0.3 percentage points between 2008 and 2009, and between 2017 and 2018.

IBGE believes this slowdown in the consumption of ultraprocessed items, observed in rural and urban areas and across all regions and income levels, may come as a result of public policies recently implemented, especially actions based on the Health Ministry’s Food Guide for the Brazilian Population, “whose golden rule stipulates that a diet must be based on fresh and minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations, with ultraprocessed foods being avoided.”

Fresh and minimally processed foods

As per the figures in the research, of the fresh and minimally processed foods, rice corresponded to 15. percent of the total calories, followed by milk, with five percent, poultry with 4.6 percent, beans with 4.3 percent. “Still relevant in the diet of Brazilians are beef (3.4 percent of total calories), fruits (2.8%), pasta (2.7%), and cornmeal, fubá, and others (2%), manioc flour (1.9%), wheat flour (1.8%), and roots and tubers (1.2%). Vegetables and eggs stand at a mere 0.9 percent of total calories,” the text says.

Among processed culinary ingredients, vegetable oil was reported at nearly 11 percent of total calories, followed by sugar, with almost ten percent.

According to IBGE analyst José Mauro de Freitas Júnior, a reduction was seen in the national average for rice and beans in the Brazilian household. “But rice and beans are present in larger amounts among families with a lower income,” he said. “On the other hand, people are eating more fruits.”

He also noted that the North has a higher average when it comes to acquiring fish than other regions. In the Northeast, in turn, meat consumption in the household is lower than the national average.

The specialist also mentioned the fall in general meat consumption in the household. “There’s a trend that’s replacing the meat. There’s the economic factor—the price of meat—but that’s not all. There are also changes in eating habits.”

Processed and ultraprocessed foods

According to IBGE, of processed foods, the one with the highest contribution to the total of calories was bread (6.7 percent of total calories), followed by cheese (1.4%), salted, dry, and smoked meats (0.7%), and fermented alcoholic beverages (0.7%)

“Finally, chief among ultraprocessed foods are cold cuts and embutidos (2.5% of total calories), cookies and sweets (2.1%), salted biscuits (1.8%), margarine (1.8%), sweet cakes and pies (1.5%), bread (1.3%), sweets in general (1.3%), sweet carbonated beverages (1.2%), and chocolate (1%), the study says.

*Tâmara Freire, reporter from Rádio Nacional, contributed to this article.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Valéria Aguiar / Nira Foster

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