Why Is The American Diet So SAD?

Understanding The Diet That Has Lead to an American Health Crisis

The Standard American Diet is SAD.  It’s characterized by lots of corn-fed meat, simple carbohydrates like white flour and potatoes, fried foods, chemical additives, saturated and hydrogenated fats, and lots of refined sugars and additives.  It’s also extremely high in processed and prepackaged foods.  For a mental image of the SAD, picture a super-sized, fast-food hamburger with fries and a soda, plus a candy bar for dessert.

These foods are easy to make in centralized factories and ship out to stores, mini-marts, shopping malls, and fast-food restaurants.  It’s pre-prepared and packaged for quick and convenient reheating in a microwave or cooking in a deep fryer. This standard food is very convenient to ship, store, and quickly serve to suit the modern American lifestyle very well.

In broad strokes, the Standard American Diet is 50% carbohydrates, 35% fat, and 15% protein. The carbohydrates are mostly simple sugars and refined flours.  The fats are primarily saturated fat—much of it from cooking oils retained from deep-frying.  The American diet is equally characterized by what it mostly doesn’t include, such as enough fiber and complex carbohydrates, vegetables and other plant-based foods, fish, dietary fiber, fermented foods, and healthy fats.  As we look at diet patterns, it’s extremely important to consider not only what they include, but also what they leave out.

Excessive serving sizes that come with the SAD are a big culprit here.  As part of my work, I travel to Europe several times a year.  One thing you notice right away in Europe is that the people are a lot thinner.  In fact, less than 30% of Europeans are overweight or obese, compared to over 68% of Americans.  One of the secrets is in portion size.  European portions seem to be about half the size of American portions.  Try cutting back to “euro-size” meals and watch your health improve!