Top Reasons Why the Standard American Diet Is So SAD and What To Do To Improve Your Food Choices
The standard American diet is made up primarily of processed foods that lack nutritional value. For example, some reports show that most Americans do not eat a single piece of fruit on any given day. So let’s look at some of the biggest problems that make the standard American diet so SAD.
High Percentages of Processed Foods
The average American eats a lot of processed foods. Unfortunately, new research shows this is not good for overall health. It can contribute to inflammation and other health complications.
The latest dietary recommendations specifically suggest limiting ultra-processed foods from your diet. Some examples of these include;
- Packaged meals and soup
- Soft drinks
- Premade desserts (ice cream, candy, cake, etc.)
- Hot dogs and other processed meats
In many cases, the processing of foods changes their chemical structure. This is especially evident in processed meats, such as hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meats. The result is food lacking nutrients and loaded with potentially harmful substances.
Lack of Nutrients
In addition to extra preservatives and changing chemical compositions that come with processing, it can also strip many nutrients from otherwise healthful foods. This leads to another significant problem with the standard American diet: a lack of nutrients.
There are two main categories of nutrients in foods — micro and macronutrients. These are broken down further into subcategories. This leaves a lot of room for error.
Fats, protein, and carbohydrates are the macronutrients most people know. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture also includes fiber and water in this category. These are necessary in large quantities in your diet — hence the term macro.
On the other hand, micronutrients are the rest of the vitamins and minerals necessary for proper bodily functioning. They are generally needed in much smaller quantities than macros. However, there are many of them, which can make it difficult to track. Iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and B are some common examples of micros that you can get through a balanced diet.
The problem is that poor dietary choices often lead to deficiencies in nutrients. This can lead to serious complications, such as anemia. Making small changes to your diet, such as choosing foods of different colors, can help ensure you get enough nutrients. Supplementation is also helpful if you are still not getting enough of what your body needs.
Overabundance of Calories
Obesity is more than a byproduct of the standard American diet; it is a growing global problem. The World Health Organization estimates more than 300 million obese adults worldwide. Although reasons for this vary by region and socioeconomic demographics, one underlying factor is a lack of access to nutrient-dense foods.
Foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories provide the elements needed for good health without overloading the body with unnecessary calories. The number of calories you need can vary widely. Most daily recommendations use a 2,000 calories diet as the ideal. However, sedentary people may not need that much, while very active individuals often require significantly more.
Extraordinary Sodium Levels
Too much of anything — even a good thing — can be harmful. Sodium is a perfect example. Sodium is a necessary nutrient. It helps with water retention and maintaining electrolyte levels. However, high intake levels have been associated with serious health complications.
Limiting sodium intake can be difficult unless you take the time to read nutrition labels. If you frequently skip this step, consider changing that habit. However, if you aren’t going to, it’s a good idea to assume that most processed foods, prepared sauces, and condiments will be pretty high in salt. Look for low-sodium options or make your own to keep levels in check.
No matter how much you want to make the world a healthier place, you must start by changing your own food choices. A few examples of health-supporting food choices are eating fewer processed foods, focusing on getting enough nutrients, and avoiding excess calories.