What’s Wrong with the Standard American Diet?

beggar_boys_eating_grapes_and_melons
Beggar Boys Eating Grapes and Melons by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

 

Growing up on the “Standard American Diet,” our family considered ourselves pretty healthy. After all, our plates often consisted of a “balance” of protein, fruits/veggies, and starch. This could have been anything from mac n’ cheese, broccoli covered in melted cheese, and processed lunch-meat, to pasta and meat sauce (counting the diced green peppers in the sauce as a veggie.)

Of course, waiting for us in the ever elusive brown paper lunch bag in the school cafeteria was a Wonder bread (still wondering) sandwich with a slice of bologna and Kraft cheese, followed by an apple we usually avoided, and a Little Debbie or Hostess cake made of the finest filth on earth. Kool-Aid was considered a viable option for juice, soda machines flowed freely, and a Fruit Roll-Up could easily pass as a healthy snack.

And if it’s not bad enough that our parents kept feeding us this day in and out, we often started our day with something that could “stick to our ribs!” This meant sticking to our gut, waist, and anywhere else it wasn’t wanted. These grain-based sugar-fest starters often consisted of cereal, oatmeal, or pancakes. The scales were not only tipped, any poor excuse for protein was utterly crushed by simple sugars and carbs.

And forget about running out that door late to catch the bus! Dear old mom would be right there to hand you a Pop Tart and tell you how breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Sure she meant well, but might as well have handed you a few sugar packets to get you through the morning, before crashing and burning into a tired stress ball of teenage emotions.

What Went Wrong?

The so-called Age of Aquarius of the 60’s and 70’s is what went wrong. With the loosening of the family bonds and more moms working out of the home, there became a need for “fast” food. Home cooked meals that took hours to prepare and fresh home-grown gardens began to diminish.

The cultural entrepreneurs of the food industry quickly smelled blood in the water and swam for the bait! Chains with drive-through window restaurants, mass producing food made quickly on the cheap, began to pop up everywhere. This seemed to be the busy parent’s answer to feeding kids on-the-go. Suddenly, after school stops were made on the way to sports practice or breakfast on the road for weekend trips.

The next deadly culprit was the invention of high fructose corn syrup at a corn processing company in the early 70’s. The cheap sweetener made from genetically modified corn has proven to be death itself to the body in its chemical effects. Yet, it is in almost EVERYTHING! As a result…look around!

The last great brick in the wall to the now internationally known American body type was the introduction of food processing. This chemical procedure, often compromising the nutritional value of the raw food product, made it possible for foods to become “non-perishible,” allowing them to sit on grocery store shelves indefinitely without changing color or consistency.

Food additives increased rates of diabetes, hyperactivity, and cancer, but that seemed a small matter to the FDA, who approved many additives including sodium benzoate, BHA and BHT, artificial sweeteners, food dyes, and on and on. Many additives are estrogen based (note the increase in early female development and infertility) and are potential carcinogens.

The Three Culprits

Sugar – Other than its taste, there is nothing good about sugar. In lab rats presented with the option to choose sugar or cocaine, they always choose the sugar (I would too, btw!) Sugar is extremely addictive and something that was a rare treat for our ancestors. Yet, many of us who practically got a lollipop at the hospital for being born, find it impossible to make it through Lent alone without sugar.

The most deadly of all sugars is high fructose corn syrup and any artificial sweetener. Avoid them like the plague. Organic cane sugar and other options have begun to crop up more and more, but should still be used on a limited basis. Substitute raw honey, Stevia, or maple syrup whenever you can.

Processed Foods – Almost 90 percent of foods consumed in America are processed packaged foods. That means sadly, only 10 percent are raw. The rule of thumb with packaged foods is that “less is more” when it comes to ingredients. When you turn over the box and read the ingredients, the fewer you see there the better (think 3 or 4.) Also, you should know what each of these ingredients are. If you turn over the box and see a long and daunting list staring back at you, in which you can’t even pronounce half of the chemical components in your food, then hmm, you may not want to consume them either.

Vegetable Oils – It’s been many years since I’ve tasted a vegetable oil, and boy am I thankful for that! Again, the cheapest oils to produce, the heating of these chemical and highly toxic solvents are used in almost everything. These triglycerides help to thicken your artery walls, resulting in elevated risk of heart disease and stroke. “Vegetable Oil” covers a wide variety of plant or seed extracts, without letting the consumer know “which” ones (say it ain’t soy.) Kick your Crisco for Coconut Oil, and your veg oil for olive oil and avocado oil (which can be heated to higher temps.)

Where We are Now

Sadly, where we are now is grossly overweight, with an increase in all things bad (childhood diabetes, obesity, asthma, sleep Apnea, ADHD, autism.) All of these conditions have been linked to and exacerbated by excessive weight and high levels of sugar in the diet.

Just think, when we were kids there was often one or two children considered to be the “fat” kids. Yet, when I think back now, they were actually pretty normal. They just weren’t stick figures like most of the rest of us. But as time went on and another generation passed with poor eating habits, the “fat” kids of our day have become the skinny kids of today.

I’m sad as I watch the little Elementary children getting off their school bus in the afternoon. Many of the little girls are physically maturing way too fast for their bodies. Other children have large guts that peek out from under their shirts. And perhaps the saddest are the children who struggle to catch their breath after climbing down the three large steps of the school bus.

This certainly isn’t their fault, and often not even their parents fault. The two factors are poor education on health, and affordability of good foods. America is one of the few countries in which the poorest people are often the most overweight. This is because unhealthy food is cheap. A person can eat all three meals at McDonald’s for under $5 if they want to. But what they are eating are filler breads, low-grade meats pumped with hormones, and french fries cooked in the cheapest oil and sprinkled with sugar. You get what you pay for.

Autoimmune Disease

Convenience. Profit. Cost. Where has it gotten us? In compromising our food for chemically processed and genetically modified junk, we now find ourselves squeezing under the rather large umbrella of autoimmune diseases. These consist of health problems ranging from the immune system, digestive tract, joints, skin, blood, nerves, and ultimately the body in general! Yet, they all manifest from the same place; the gut.

We all have good and bad bacteria in our gut. Our job is to stack the good against the bad, so we have awesome immune systems and the good bacteria have an easier job doing their job. These good bacteria aid our nutrition, build our immune system, and help needed compounds into the bloodstream, while preventing harmful ones from passing through.

When out of control, the bad bacteria are nasty little things that feed on bad fats and sugar. They grow bigger and stronger, not only emitting harmful gasses that compromise our stomach lining, but also bore small holes in the stomach lining and allow harmful compounds to pass into the bloodstream.

When our good bacteria are weak, beat up, outnumbered, and defeated by the bad bacteria, our body begins to act out and shutdown systems. inflammation, digestive issues, skin conditions, depression, lack of mental clarity and memory, adrenal failure, and various forms of cancer result.

Antibiotics are the worst way to damage the good bacteria in the gut, especially in children, and should only be used in extreme cases. When a child takes an antibiotic, good bacteria are wiped out, restarting the child’s gut balance from square one, with no immune defense in place.

Just think, every time you eat sugar, processed foods, bad fats, and chemical additives, you are building up the bad bacteria army in your gut. Leafy greens and fresh raw ingredients on the other hand, aid the growth of the good army of bacteria.

Take Back the Gut

  1. Cut the Culprits – Sugar (corn syrups), processed foods with a million foreign ingredients, and various “vegetable” oils need to hit the road. Clear your pantry and your family’s digestive system.
  2. Add a Probiotic – Probiotics are live bacteria that aid that much-needed army of good bacteria in the gut. They should be taken daily, but are especially important when taking an antibiotic, the immune system is compromised, pregnant or elderly, or when flu or contagious disease is prevalent. There are many on the market, but strain and variety are important when choosing a probiotic. We use Bio-Kult (from infancy on), because they contain a minimum of two billion live microorganisms per capsule, and have worked wonders for our family.
  3. Do Your Research – With so much information out there, it can be overwhelming to know where to start in deciding what is best for the health of your family. After years of my husband and I pouring through stacks of material, we continue to recommend the Gut and Psychology Syndrome as the best possible starting point. The book is short and easy to understand (and dare I say, digest?) It includes a meal plan from day one for the newborn, with many recipes and ideas.

It’s never too late to turn your health around, and so important for your growing children.

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Comments

  1. Alicia Joy M Parowski says

    Just a small error I thought you might want to be aware of… I think you mean food dye not food “die” (though the second seems almost appropriate doesn’t it!). 🙂

  2. says

    Several years back I was at an old historic hotel in Florida. On the wall were old black and white photos of people from the 40s swimming there. My uncle said to me, “what strikes you about this picture.” I wasn’t sure what he was getting at so I didn’t have an answer. He said, “Everyone was thin and healthy looking.” I looked again. Sure enough he was right. It really made me start looking around. Our family eats paleo and nothing beats putting fresh foods into your body. My attention span is better, I sleep better, have more energy, and hardly ever get sick.

    • says

      Wow Amy, so telling. We also eat a Paleo diet and it’s amazing the difference in our health and energy. None of our kids have ever needed antibiotics or steroids for any reason. On one occasion when our one son had some ear infection signs, we took him to the doctor. The doc said his immune system and our natural diet/remedies were so strong, he believed he would kick it all by himself. Sure enough, a few days later there were no signs of it!

  3. Maia says

    I find myself in an odd position of not really demonizing many of the foods mentioned and yet not eating them myself. I think after a few minutes of reflection I shy away from poptarts/processed foods and the like and don’t really like to see my children eating it (though I have a soft spot for cheez-its and graham crackers that I’ll occasionally buy)because I find them to be gross. They lack…well love. They are the evidence of a food culture and family culture lost. To me preparing good, quality meals at home and eating them with friends and family is what eating is all about. You cook good meals for those you love. I’m all about homemade cheesecake done right. Looking up the best recipes and techniques to make the perfect custard you can to present it to those you care for. It isn’t good for you, but for me the effort of making it makes it not only more enjoyable to eat, but less likely for me to over indulge and instead savor it. You don’t eat bad food because it is almost assaulting your dignity (extreme wording, but I couldn’t find another way to say it). You get a hostess and you gobble it down not really enjoying the experience (usually by yourself) and feeling quite empty and unfulfilled by the end. If you’re gonna eat it, it better be good. And not ‘good’ like ‘that show was pretty good’, but the God kind of ‘good’ like pure and satisfying. Wow that was a longer rant than I intended.

    • says

      You make an excellent point Maia, in regards to food showing love. It’s actually quite Theological, as meals are a pivotal part of biblical covenant relationships. As you said, preparing a meal for family or guests at our table is an extension of love and friendship. The meals that are poured over, with much effort (Thanksgiving) have you remembering them for years to come (not to mention days of leftovers!) And we do savor “good” food. As our ancestors savored the occasional sugar treat, and children in third world countries savor candy. Our culture has too much of everything, and we want more… Faster… Easier. Many things are certainly lost.

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