March is National Nutrition Month, a time to acknowledge and reflect on the importance of Food. Nutrition is the science which studies the process of providing or obtaining food necessary for health and growth. Nutrition is essential to sustain life and well-being. Every organ within the human body is made up of cells which are fueled and supported by the food we consume. In essence, our bodies require carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals and vitamin derived from foods to maintain healthy organs keeping them free from destructive diseases. However, today’s eating habits have changed drastically resulting in the various metabolic health issues facing America. As part of National Nutrition Month let’s explore some of these changes along with how they impact health.
Meat: Average American consumes 9 oz. of meat per day which is about 16% higher than what the USDA 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.
Milk: Only 60% of today’s milk is ingested and four times more cheese is consumed compared to 50 years ago. Today, the yearly consumption of cheese, for Americans is 30 pounds per person whereas 50 years ago it was only 7.5 pounds. We are consuming far too many “Fast” and prepared foods like pizza, sandwiches, nachos, burritos, spreads, and prepackaged cheese products the culprits and the reason for the increase.
Refined Grains: Between 1970 and 2005 total grain intake increased by 41%. Most of the calories we ingest are in the form of Refined Grains such as cookies, cakes, bread, bagels, and most dessert foods. The nutritional concern with refined grains is the sudden spiking of an individual’s blood sugars versus the slow-digested reaction of “whole grains.”
Fats and Oils: There is a 63% increase in the consumption of added fats and oils today compared to just 30 years ago. Please note, there are good fats such as monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, and vegetables which have numerous health benefits. However, the increase in fats comes from saturated and trans fats associated with high LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Added fats are in processed food products like snacks, desserts, baked goods and of course “French Fries” (biggie size it).
Sweeteners: 20% more refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup has heightened in the past 30 years. In 2005, data shows that the average American’s annual intake of refine sugar was 62 pounds and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup was 77 pounds- 30 teaspoons per day about 477 calories. The increase has been encouraged by manufacturers/industries use of high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks, processed foods, i.e., Catsup, and baked goods. Research studies have linked excess added sugars to several metabolic health issues such as obesity, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fatty liver.
Sweetened Beverages: Americans drank about 18.7 gallons of carbonated soft drinks a year in 1966; however today averaging 58 gallons which provide 300 to 400 calories a day. Sugary fruit drinks, sports beverages, lattes, smoothies, and sweetened iced tea, are the single most significant sources of calories for young American adults.
Listed above is just a brief snapshot of alterations which have taken place in the American eating patterns. However, I find it compelling when studies show the intake of fruits and vegetables have only improved slightly; in that, these are essential foods which provide many of the antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients required to keep us healthy.
For the month of March, join me in making a conscientious effort to be mindful of what types and the amounts of foods you are placing inside of your bodies. Strive to follow the eating trends and patterns of the Mediterranean-DASH Diet which have been reported to be the healthiest of all.
You are what you eat, be mindful. What are you eating?