Over the past two centuries, the American diet has dramatically changed. Rather than an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, Americans have shifted their focus to ultra-processed and highly processed foods. As a result, Americans are increasingly unable to meet their nutritional needs. There are a number of factors that contribute to the decline of the American diet, including increasing levels of sugar and saturated fat, poor documentation, and an overall deteriorating diet.
Since 1970, Americans are drinking less milk than in decades past. In fact, Americans drink only 4.8 ounces of milk per day on average, compared to the average of 21.9 pounds of cheese consumed annually. At the same time, Americans are eating more dairy products, including yogurt, than they did in the 1970s. And in terms of fats and oils, Americans are now consuming the equivalent of 36 pounds of cooking oil annually, up from 15 pounds in the 1970s.
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Americans consume nearly half of their calories from fat and carbohydrates. These foods contributed about 23.4% of the calories Americans consumed in 2010, while meat and dairy made up 37.8%. Food companies manipulated these foods to be more addictive. And the study also noted that the relationship between fat and health was not well documented. Modern families did not consider the impact of sugar and salt on blood pressure and insulin until much later.
In the study, researchers took into account the economic costs of the changes in the American diet. They calculated the effect on five major resources in the food system. In other words, the average American diet would require more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds than today’s diet currently does. They also assumed that the U.S. population would remain static. Despite the negative effects, the authors noted that a healthy diet would also have an environmental and economic impact.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that being overweight causes 280,000 deaths per year. Today, the costs of obesity and overweight in America amount to $240 billion per year, and Americans spend $33 billion annually on weight loss programs. While these statistics are concerning, it is important to remember that the solution is simple. Eat healthier and exercise more! The results will pay off in the long run. The American diet has become more unhealthy.
In addition to the high levels of sugar and saturated fat, the average American consumes 25 teaspoons of sugar per day. This amounts to nearly 20% of our daily calories. The resulting insulin levels are a sign of hormonal imbalances and taxed immune systems. Additionally, children who eat large amounts of sugar are more likely to contract colds, flu, and other infections. The American Dietary Guidelines recommend that we limit our sugar intake to less than 10% of our daily caloric intake.
While the levels of saturated fat in the American diet remain high, other components of the diet have declined. While red meat, whole milk, and lard remained stable, the consumption of processed foods such as margarine and shortening has increased. Since the introduction of ultra-processed foods, the PUFA and MUFA content of the diet has increased dramatically. This increase is largely attributed to the increase in HFCS, which are saturated fats from vegetable oils.