Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are You What You Eat?

"Our food supply has changed more dramatically in the past 50 years, than in the previous 10,000." This simple yet profound statement made by a modern farmer in the 2009 documentary Food, Inc. is so spot-on. Foods you routinely eat today would not be recognized as food by people just a few generations ago: cereal bars, protein powders, bright powders that we add to boxed pastas, yogurt in a tube and beverages the color of Windex. In the next few installments of this blog, I will discuss the causes and effects of the Standard American Diet and how it has evolved to the point that we are literally eating ourselves to death. This message contains information that could help to determine your length of life. I'll be highlighting what the Standard American Diet is, why we're eating this way and what the potential ramifications of it can be on our health.

In his book, Eat To Live (revised in 2011), Dr. Joel Fuhrman breaks down the Standard American Diet into three primary categories: processed food, animal products, and fruits/vegetables. For the purpose of this series, "processed food" will refer to any food created using methods/ingredients not found in the average household kitchen. According to the USDA, there are, on average, approximately 20,000 such products introduced into the marketplace each year. Fuhrman states that 60% of what the average American is eating is processed food; 33% is animal products and 7% is in the fruit/vegetable category, yet half of this category consists of just two vegetables - iceberg lettuce and potatoes.

What does this look like in terms of actual substances we are consuming? The average American consumes 160 pounds of sugar each year, compared with 5 pounds annually in 1900. For a tangible idea of what 160 pounds of anything is like, go to the pet food isle in the grocery store and pick up a 40-pound bag of dog food. 160 pounds is four of those. One of the ways we get sugar into our bodies is through the 53 gallons of soda that the average American is consuming each year. We eat, on average, 200 pounds of meat and 29 pounds of french fries.

Many people say that eating healthier food is too expensive or inconvenient, yet we are finding ourselves actually "inconvenienced" by the health effects (including death) that eating this type of diet causes. I'll touch on those topics next.

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