Standard American Diet Inadequate to Maintain Health, Say Experts
Eating healthy was simple for our ancestors: Find and eat fresh, natural, non-toxic and available food. This same simple guideline for optimal health still applies to us today.”
The Standard American Diet, aka “SAD,” is what the average American eats, and is built around what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recommended over the years. It is a diet that calls for moderation in all food choices. Food choice guidelines are provided, but there are no food or drink options that are totally avoided or restricted. The philosophy behind the SAD is that a small amount of anything will not harm individuals in a meaningful or measureable way.
“The lack of dietary restrictions makes for better compliance and perhaps even a more ‘balanced’ diet,” say boomer generation health experts Dian Griesel, Ph.D., and Tom Griesel, authors of the new book TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust (April 2011, BSH). “However, the way we see it, moderation is basically just an excuse to eat anything, good or bad.”
“All edible items, meaning anything that doesn’t kill us immediately or shortly after ingestion, is considered a food and can be included in the SAD,” says Tom. “The number of so-called foods is increasing every day, as fast as manufacturers can create them. Remember, according to the USDA, ketchup is considered a vegetable. In the last 120 years, our diet has shifted from predominately whole foods to mostly refined and processed man-made foods. Some of these creations, like high-fructose corn syrup, are very recent additions that have become widely used in just the last 40 years.”
“For hundreds of thousands of years—perhaps millions—humans have survived and thrived better than most other species,” adds Dian. “Prior to 120 years ago, there were none of the modern foods so common on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus today. Agricultural societies are only about 10,000 years old. The majority of the world’s population adhered to a more “hunter-gatherer”-type diet until about 5,000 years ago. Looking at the SAD from a historical perspective, it represents a miniscule period of our human development. In fact, because it is such a radical departure from our evolutionary diet in such a short period of time, we are actually all participating in a huge dietary experiment.”
The Griesels say that only time will tell if we are going in the right direction. However, they note, if the alarming increase of obesity and all other chronic diseases is any indication, we are all in big trouble. “Scientists and researchers are rapidly coming to the conclusion that this trend is not due to genetic factors but rather to environmental factors like diet, lifestyle, air quality and exposure to chemicals. These are all things that are for the most part totally under our control. These same scientists and researchers also agree that only about 10% of the incidence of disease can be attributed to genetics—and even then, gene expression is often influenced by the same environmental factors which we can control.”
“Everyone knows that lions eat meat and cows eat grass,” says Tom. “If we were to feed a lion grass or a cow meat, they would get sick and die. We need to consider the proper diet for humans too. The evidence is overwhelming that we evolved on a combination of both plant and animal foods. We can always debate which is best for us or what percentages of each we should eat for optimal health. However, it is very clear what we did not eat and should most likely avoid if we want to be on the safe side and experience optimal health. Refined and processed man-made foods all fall into this category to avoid.”
“We seem to be of the opinion that if we don’t suffer some immediate consequence from eating something, that means it is okay to eat, particularly if we enjoy the taste,” Dian observes. “This is an incorrect, foolish and dangerous belief. All of the available evidence today indicates that these modern foods are having a negative effect on our health. The health challenges we experience today are often in direct proportion to the amount of these fake foods we choose to eat.”
“Processed foods are often made with a combination of macronutrients not found in nature,” Tom points out. “The combination of sugar or carbohydrate and fat is the most common example, and our bodies are not equipped to deal with it effectively. The number of chemical preservatives, dyes and fillers and their effect on our physiology over time is not easily measured. However, what we do know is that from an evolutionary perspective they have only been introduced very recently.”
In many ways grains, even whole grains, are in a similar category with man-made products, say the Griesels; they are both very low moisture content and concentrated carbohydrate foods. “The foods we evolved eating—fruits, vegetables and even raw meats—are mostly water ranging from around 60% to 96% moisture. Grains and grain products are 10% to 15%. Historically, when we ate naturally available foods, we were hydrating ourselves at the same time. Concentrated carbohydrates are also responsible for frequent blood sugar spikes and subsequent insulin release which often leads to fat storage. Even high-sugar fruits present fewer problems, because they are diluted due to their high water content. A constant stream of concentrated carbohydrates, often in the form of drinks and snacks or a 6 to 8 meal-per-day plan, will upset our system and is a probable cause of the many metabolic problems we are experiencing today.”
“People need to understand that eating in moderation is not an effective strategy, because it doesn’t take much in the way of concentrated carbohydrates to cause blood sugar problems,” says Dian. “Adding fat to the equation only makes the situation worse. These concentrated carbohydrates are calorie-rich and nutrient-poor, and this is exactly the opposite of the natural foods we evolved eating, which were predominately low-calorie and rich in nutrients. Adding vitamins and minerals back into these denatured foods, synthetic or otherwise, does not solve the problem and probably makes it worse because the fortification additives are likely toxic.”
“Balanced meals are another problem,” Tom says. “They may look good on paper, but not in our bodies. Eating many different foods and macronutrients at the same time is something our ancestors may only have experienced very rarely. In addition, balanced meals often result in eating too much per meal. We evolved in times of food scarcity and we had to work for our meals. In America today the situation is completely opposite, with food being readily available and no work required to procure it.”
“Many items marketed as healthy today are really just junk foods in disguise,” the Griesels continue. “Other than listing ‘healthy’ ingredients on the label, they present the same blood sugar problems. Sometimes our intelligence can be our worst enemy, because we believe we can come up with our own combinations that will somehow be superior to what we could pick up from the produce, meat or seafood departments at our local supermarket. We are often told that the food we have available to us today is somehow inferior and that supplements are required for health. This is also a foolish and dangerous belief. We really have no idea of the health consequences of taking a man-made mixture of vitamins, minerals or other ‘healthy’ compounds.
“Whenever a research study suggests that a certain natural food, like blueberries, is beneficial to our health, the race is on to isolate the beneficial compound to market it as a supplement or new drug, with the driving motivation being profit, not health,” concludes Dian. “We have developed a ‘more is better’ mentality that is not backed by science or the available evidence. Eating healthy was simple for our ancestors: Find and eat fresh, natural, non-toxic and available food. This same simple guideline for optimal health still applies to us today.”
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