You don’t have to look much further than the Standard American Diet – or the Western diet – to learn the cause of the obesity epidemic and other diseases.
But why is American food so unhealthy? It’s not just the Americans overeating, which they do, but also that what they eat is bad for them. Ultra-processed foods, solid fats, sugar, and salt are the staples of the Standard American Diet.
It’s also what Americans don’t eat. While they consume plenty of excess salt, saturated fat, refined grains, and added salt, they eat fewer vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and healthful oils than recommended.
All of this means that 42 percent of the population is obese, and conditions like type-2 diabetes and heart disease run rampant.
One reason for the debacle is that healthy foods are often far more expensive than packaged foods, which tend to have high amounts of the things people shouldn’t eat too much of.
Issues like high blood pressure and high cholesterol are the result of eating too much salt, unhealthy fats, and sugar. According to the CDC, more than 70 percent of the salt that Americans eat comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, or restaurant foods.
Another issue is that ultra-processed foods are designed to fire up cravings and desire for more of them. Advertising, which is almost everywhere, reinforces the desire.
Aside from harming heart health, these foods also lead to obesity. Obesity is closely associated with heart disease and type-2 diabetes, which come with several related risks and illnesses. Diabetes can lead to circulatory problems, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Access to healthy food is another problem; stores and restaurants that specialize in junk food are everywhere. Even the grocery store is largely filled with processed foods, with only a limited amount of real-estate limited to healthful, nutrient-dense items.
There’s a lot working against you. But you can improve your diet by making more of an effort to cook from home and seek affordable, nutrient-dense food in your area. When heading to the grocery store, stick to the perimeter: that’s where you’ll find healthy food.