April 23, 2009

Standard American Diet = SAD

At the risk of sounding un-American, I must say the typical American diet is pretty sad. I know there are naysayers out there that poo-poo these concerns, but the facts remain that our population is getting more and more obese, and cancers of various forms are skyrocketing.

The naysayers don't offer any compelling reasons why this is happening to us. They might blame the communists, lack of faith, or it's just a glandular problem.

But, gosh, don't you think it might have something to do with what we eat? Our food supply has changed dramatically over the past 3 or 4 decades-- going from fresh, homemade food to prepackaged, processed cheap food. This evolution of the food supply just so happens to parallel the downfall of our health.


You know the old saying, "You are what you eat." Put simply, what you put into your body has a tremendous effect on your health and well-being.

What makes the diet so bad?

Calorie intake is probably the most obvious, but it is likely the least of our worries. Most inert couch potatoes eat far more calories than they burn off. Therefore, the body stores those extra calories for "emergencies". In the context of human evolution, "emergency" here means having to go without food for several days while your clan migrates from one savanna to another, or having to run a couple miles while being chased by a saber tooth tiger. But in these modern times of readily available and affordable food, I think we can all stop binging and gorging ourselves every day.

Another problem with our diet is a heavy reliance on meat, particularly beef. Sure, humans are meat-eaters, but we're also plant eaters. Many people forget this. Countless studies show that eating too much meat is bad for you. Yet most people are addicted to it, and the cattle industry is right there shoving it into your mouths with their amazing marketing budgets and political clout.

Dairy products are also consumed in vast quantities. Milk, cheese, cream, butter. Humans are the only known animal that not only drinks the milk of another animal, but continues to do so well into their adult lives. Milk is designed by nature as a highly concentrated source of protein and fat to help young animals grow. Cow's milk, in particular, is designed to help young calves grow into big, fat cows. Get where I'm going with this?

And then there is what's not being eaten much of, namely vegetables and grains. To most Americans, eating a salad is what they call eating vegetables. Ignoring the fact that the salad is drenched in fat, gloppy dressing, lettuce is 95% water, by weight (reference). This is like drinking a glass of water with parsley flakes sprinkled on top. And most "grain" consumption is in the form of processed and bleached wheat "bread".

There are lots more that can be said about the SAD: There's the proliferation of processed, packaged food of low quality. There's the saturation of salt and sugar and HFCS in most everything we eat. There's the amount of chemicals in the form of hormones and preservatives in all our food. There's the distances our food travels to get from field (or factory) to fork. Need I go on?

To make things worse, there is an entire diet fad industry that feeds off the SAD. Grapefruit diets, protein diets, jelly bean diets, cigarette diets, etc. They're all bogus and dangerously unhealthy. The best diet is: eat less food, eat better food, and get off your butt and exercise.

There is a book out there which emphasizes the points I make above, whose cover image I show at the top. You can get this from Amazon: Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World. Pretty scary reading.

Despite the conspiracy advocates, I don't think that there is intent of malice on the part of the food industry. What would be the point of killing us all? You would think they would want us to live longer so we have to buy more food.

The food industry has simply given in to our demands for cheaper and more convenient food. That is what happens in a capitalist market. In order to make food cheaper, they had to cut quality. In order to make food convenient, they have to dump in tons of preservatives.

But not all is hopeless. We do have the power to turn this around. In the past few years, the demand for organics has increased. Other movements such as eating mostly locally grown or produced food is starting to take hold. Free range and grass-fed beef is in demand. High fructose corn syrup is under heavy assault; so bad that they have to air ridiculous ads stating that it is "natural".

In short, we must demand better quality food. You can do your share by not buying the crap food that pervades the supermarkets. If they can't sell it, they will stop making it. Do your body a favor. Do the environment a favor. Help steer the food industry back in the right direction.

Until that happens, prepare your own food using whole ingredients. That's where Evolving Palate, and scads of other recipe blog sites and books, can help. Stay tuned and live a better life.

No comments:

Post a Comment