The Standard American Diet
I’m sure you all remember pictures of the ‘Food Pyramid.’ With grains at the bottom signifying what should make up most of our diet. The next rung up was fruits and vegetables, followed by meats, nuts, dairy, and other proteins. And lastly, at the tip top was fats and sweets.
The Food Pyramid was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1992. Is it just a coincidence that grains, the crops most subsidized by the government, are also the most recommended food? Because of this, some have called the USDA setting the food guidelines for the country a conflict of interest.
The Rise of Disease: The Food Guide Pyramid was put into place to help people choose ‘healthy’ foods that would help combat the growing rates of heart disease. As fat was demonized and wheat and corn put into the spotlight, rates of heart disease have only continued to grow. Currently 1 in 3 will die from cardiovascular disease.
If the diet recommendations haven’t stopped the continued rise in heart disease, what is the cause? Why are the rates of Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Cardiovascular Disease, and other chronic degenerative disease still rising? The answer is largely the Standard American Diet. It is high in processed carbohydrates and sugars, and low in fat.
The Standard American Diet causes systemic inflammation, which in turn causes your nervous system to be in chronic fight-or-flight mode. This is the stress response that your body goes through when it thinks it is under attack. Even though we are not under attack physically, our bodies ARE from the foods we eat. Fast foods, preservatives, food dies, GMO’s, insecticides, pesticides, processed carbohydrates, processed sugars and other food-like substances have been added to our food to make them taste good and make us buy more. This long-term stress on the body causes disease.
How to Take Control
In order to take control, we have to know what we are putting into our bodies. This means reading labels! It takes some time getting used to stopping in the grocery store and looking at what you’re putting in your cart instead of just walking by and grabbing the same stuff you always do. A general tip holistic nutritionists use is, “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it!”
Another good tip is to do the majority of your shopping around the edges of the store. This is where they keep their fresh fruits, vegetables, breads, meats, and dairy. There are less processed foods here, and the food around the outside are usually better for you.
I always recommend buying local and organic. This way you can get to know who is growing your food and what is going into it. With organic, you know you will not be ingesting GMO’s, the food will contain more nutrients, there won’t be any chemical preservatives, and, I think, they usually taste better than the conventional options. You do need to exercise caution, though. Food companies have realized people want food that is better for them, so they use catchy phrases and buzzwords to try and convince you their food is healthy. Watch out for words like ‘holistic, natural, sugar free, fat free, all wheat, vegetarian fed, gluten free, and similar words. Just because they are on the label doesn’t necessarily make them good or bad. The FDA doesn’t always regulate those words. You need to, again, read the label and investigate.
Eliminate foods that cause inflammation. This may mean you need to have some additional testing done to find out what foods you are sensitive to. Sensitivities cause different immune reactions than allergies, but still cause inflammation and that fight-or-flight response in your body. I have seen people have amazing results when they remove foods like gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and nightshades. If you are curious about figuring out what foods may be affecting you, there are a couple of ways we can do this testing in our office.
What DO We Eat?
If the food pyramid is not accurate, what is the right way to eat? First, we must look at turning the ratios around.
FATS: All fats are not bad for you. Your body needs fat to operate. Your brain, nerves, and cell membranes are made of fat and cholesterol, and if you don’t have the proper ratios of fats, bad health follows. Fats that are good for you include: olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed oil, nuts and seeds, butter, and eggs. Stay away from hydrogenated vegetable oils!
VEGETABLES: Eat as many vegetables as you want! If we were to make a new food pyramid, vegetables would definitely be at the bottom. There are so many good, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other phytonutrients in vegetables that, in America, we simply do not eat enough of.
FRUITS: We don’t want to eat as much fruit as vegetables, because it still has sugar in it. Fruits are not as bad as ‘junk food,’ because the fiber in the fruit keeps the sugar from being released right away, but sugar is still sugar. Fruits also have many good vitamins and minerals.
PROTEIN: Organic, pasture raised animal meat or wild caught salmon. Pasture raised animals have better ratios of fats and nutrients than confined animals and are raised eating what they were designed to eat, instead of feed like GMO corn.