The American Diet and What’s Wrong With It
Since the 1980’s, obesity has risen drastically in America. So has the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disorders. Clearly, something is occurring that has led to an alarming change in the health of many Americans in the course of a single generation.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Americans have also changed the way they’ve eaten in the past 20 years. Many of the foods Americans consume as part of their regular diet would not even be recognizable to their great grandparents as something edible. These tremendous changes to the diet have left Americans in a health lurch, and the best way to turn many of the country’s health crises around is to change the way we eat.
So what’s wrong with the American diet, and how can we fix it? (I do believe there’s hope!)
1. The problem: Processed foods
It seems more Americans than ever before are eating meals out of packages, boxes, jars, cans and bottles. While these foods are convenient, many are nutritionally bankrupt. Others contain a vast array of chemicals in the form of artificial colors and flavors. They are also likely to contain processed grains, sugar, and lots of salt. Because these foods make up the bulk of many diets, Americans are getting a potentially toxic brew of fake foods and chemicals that the body doesn’t know what to do with.
How to fix it: Eat foods that increase metabolism and fortify your body with the right nutrients and vitamins. What is real food? It is the plant foods people ate generations ago before industrialized foods took over. Real foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, seeds, and legumes.
2. The problem: High-fructose corn syrup, sugar, and artificial sweeteners
America has a sweet tooth. Some form of sweetener, like HCFS, sugar, or artificial sweetener, is nearly ubiquitous in processed foods. Many manufacturers prefer HCFS because it is affordable and promotes browning in baked goods. Studies on HCFS have yielded some disturbing results that suggest the body may process it in such a way that it has a deleterious effect on the liver. Sugar and HCFS both contribute to the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Likewise, artificial sweeteners like aspartame increase sugar cravings, and their long-term effects on the body remain virtually unknown. Agave is highly processed and contains a high fructose content, and is not recommended.
How to fix it: Eliminate sweeteners from your diet. If you crave something sweet, eat foods flavored with beneficial dessert ingredients like e cinnamon, vanilla, and stevia.
3. The problem: Fear of fats
A belief exists that fat makes you fat, and is therefore bad for you. It’s true some fats are unhealthy, but there are many healthy sources of fat, as well. Your body needs these some healthy fats for glowing skin, strong cells and also to remain satiated. The belief that all fats are bad has caused Americans to limit beneficial ingredients essential for good health. Commercial “fat free foods” are often laden in sugar, which has contributed to obesity.
How to fix it: Eat healthy fats in moderation. Healthy fats come from coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
4. The problem: Dairy
The enormously powerful dairy industry has Americans convinced they need milk, cheese, and yogurt for calcium and as a source of cultured probiotics. With high levels of lactose intolerance and issues efficiently processing casein in adults, however, dairy consumption contributes to a number of health problems. Dairy also slows digestion and creates mucus in the body.
How to fix it: Seek calcium from vegetable sources like dark leafy greens and sesame seeds, and regularly eat Probiotic and Enzyme Salad for a healthy source of beneficial intestinal flora. Cutting back on acid-forming foods like dairy and soda, help you keep your body’s supply of calcium intact, which is an alkaline mineral.
5. The problem: Diet soda
May people believe diet soda is a healthy choice because it does not have any calories. Diet soda, however, is a chemical brew with no nutritional value. It can even contribute to demineralization of bones and teeth, as well as creating acid in the body.
How to fix it: Drink water with a squeeze of lemon or lime, but remember to have it between meals rather than with them.
6. The problem: Big breakfasts
The old adage, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” has led millions of Americans to overdo it. A heavy breakfast can actually slow you down, especially if it contains animal proteins and other heavy ingredients. It actually makes you more tired, which will inspire you to snack more and consume more caffeinated beverages.
How to fix it: Have a Glowing Green Smoothie for breakfast. It is light and moves quickly through your digestive system, providing you with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and energy. If you’re hungry a few hours later, have a bowl of oatmeal, but make sure you are eating whole oats and not instant.
7. The problem: Pesticides and genetic modification
Industrial farming has changed the way America grows its plant foods. Many fruits, vegetables, and grains are grown from seeds that have been genetically modified to bring out certain properties or better accept pesticides, and conventionally farmed foods are covered in chemicals to keep pests away. GMO foods are often lower in minerals and other nutrients, and are grown on less than healthy soil, which results in foods that are less nutritious as well.
How to fix it: Buy organic and non-GMO foods. You can find these foods at health food stores, farmer’s markets, or by joining a CSA.
8. The problem: Refined carbohydrates
Flour, white rice, and similarly refined grains break down quickly in the body and have very little fiber or nutritional value. They also cause blood sugar spikes that lead to cravings. Yet, these foods make up the bulk of the American diet. Many grains, such as wheat, may be especially difficult for the human body to process because they contain gluten. A large percentage of people are allergic to gluten, and even those who aren’t have difficulty digesting it.
How to fix it: Try high fiber, super grains like millet or quinoa instead.
9. The problem: Lack of variety
The American diet lacks variety. Many people eat the same few foods over and over again, or eat mostly white and brown foods. This can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies, weight gain, and lack of energy.
How to fix it: Eat a variety of produce across the spectrum of color. Colorful, natural foods have high levels of vitamins. The more colors of vegetables you select, the more likely you are getting the vitamins your body needs for vibrant health.
10. The problem: Soy
Many foods contain soy, which the American population has been led to believe is a very healthy protein. Soy, however, is a goitrogen and trypsinogen-blocker, which slows down thyroid function and can block our bodies’ full assimilation of proteins. It also extremely mucus and acid-forming, and is often modified genetically.
How to fix it: Avoid tofu, soymilk, soybean oil, and other soy products. Instead, seek quality vegetable sources of protein such as quinoa, nuts, and seeds. Miso and tempeh, which are fermented soy products (which reduces some of its harmful properties) are okay occasionally.