Processed foods are an integral part of American diets, but a comparison of the nutrient contribution of foods by level of processing with the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans regarding nutrients to encourage or to reduce has not been documented. The mean reported daily dietary intakes of these nutrients and other components were examined among 25,351 participants ≥2 y of age in the 2003-2008 NHANES to determine the contribution of processed food to total intakes. Also examined was the percent contribution of each nutrient to the total reported daily nutrient intake for each of the 5 categories of food that were defined by the level of processing. All processing levels contributed to nutrient intakes, and none of the levels contributed solely to nutrients to be encouraged or solely to food components to be reduced. The processing level was a minor determinant of individual foods' nutrient contribution to the diet and, therefore, should not be a primary factor when selecting a balanced diet.
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