In 2020, the US ranked 35th on the Bloomberg Global Health Index, indicating that the populations of 34 countries are healthier than ours. Even though we spend almost twice as much on healthcare, our life expectancy is lower than any other developed country, due in large part to 3 out of 4 American adults and 1 out of 5 children (ages 6 – 19) being overweight or obese. According to an article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, obesity is often accompanied by coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea and other respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, and other conditions. What one chooses to eat is not the only determinant of poor health and early death, but the Standard American Diet (SAD) plays a starring role.
The average calorie breakdown of the SAD, according to a 2009 graph from the USDA Economic Research Service, is as follows: 63% from processed foods, 25% from animal products, and only 12% from plants. (My guess is, the first 2 percentages have increased & the third decreased since the graph data was compiled.) The dominance of nutrient-poor refined grains, fried foods, red & processed meats, and food additives results in biological chaos in our bodies.
If you are uncertain as to what processed foods are, think prepared & packaged, with added salts, sweeteners, preservatives, colors, and other chemicals. Examples can include frozen pizza, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, french fries, tv dinners, canned soups, ice cream, snacks, breads, pastries, and soda & other sugar-sweetened drinks, even most juices. Fast foods make the list, as do meals from “slow food” restaurants that utilize highly refined substances like artificial flavor enhancers, poor quality cooking oils, white flour & sugar, and sauces made with genetically modified corn syrup or other chemical additives.
Prepackaged foods are often stripped of their nutrient content to extend shelf life. Although they count toward the calories we consume (an astronomical 2775 on average daily) they don’t contribute a great deal to nourishing our cells. It is common for food manufacturers to add plenty of cheap refined sweeteners, salt, and unhealthy fats to improve taste, mouthfeel, and encourage addiction.
I’ve talked to many people who are unable to accept that the US government would allow food items to be sold here that cause harm. But according to this report from the National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer, more than 2,500 chemical substances are intentionally added to foods to modify flavor, color, stability, texture, or cost. There has been no requirement to perform tests to determine carcinogenicity for most of them. Presently, over 43,000 research articles can be found on PubMed when searching food additives and disease.
If you eat a lot of processed foods, you might find that you don’t like the taste of fresh, home-prepared veggies. Manufactured foods change the population of our gut microbes that control cravings and establish taste bias. (It is possible to change your taste preferences, if you’re wondering. Regularly trying new-to-you, healthier foods and doing a physician-approved 1-day water fast can help.)
The 25% of food from animal products eaten as a part of the SAD are not often stellar choices, either. Most livestock raised for commercial consumption in this country receive regular antibiotics and other chemical injections to hasten growth and promote survival within the deplorable conditions in which they live and die. Further, according to the ASPCA, due to bovine growth hormones, unnatural diets, and selective breeding for increased milk production, a single dairy cow now produces 50 – 100 pounds of milk each day, a 10-fold increase from a few decades ago. Personally, I believe the chemical exposure and inhumane treatment of these animals must contribute to the inflammation and disease caused by eating red & processed meats and dairy products.
The Standard American Diet does not in any way promote well-being. Taking responsibility for improving your health by eating fewer processed foods and animal products can result in a longer life with less risk for a debilitating disease. Eating more of the Earth’s gifts of plants can help protect you from the SAD, the number one cause of death in the US.
Blessings for Health & Longevity,
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.