SAD – The Standard American Diet

December 16, 2011 11:34 am 0 comments

By Inna Dumova, CISSNYes, it makes you sad right?  The SAD or Standard American Diet is enough to depress anyone. But let’s face it; this applies to our friends north of the border, eh.  We all eat enough junk to feed a third-world country.  The advice we’ve been spoon fed by various experts has led to a fattening of our waistlines as well as promoting the notion that some drug from “big pharma” is all we need to cure our fatness. 
Here are some sad statistics.  According to CDC, obesity in America has increased from 13.4% in 1960 to 35.1% in 2006.   That’s a lot of donut eating my friend. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the consumption of refined carbohydrates has increased from 374 g/day in 1963 to 500 g/day in 1997 and continues to rise. From 1980 to 1997 the total energy intake increased by more than 500 kcal/day, of which 428 kcal (nearly 80% of the increase in total energy) came from carbohydrates. From 1909 to 1997 the total per capita use of caloric sweeteners increased by 86%, of which the corn syrup was the most prevalent. Sweeteners, which were almost nonexistent at the beginning of the century, now comprise more than 20% of the total daily carbohydrate intake.  Yes, holy sweetness indeed!
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition data remained consistent in that obesity and the prevalence of diabetes increased proportionately to the increase in consumption of refined carbohydrates in the United States. (Gross, Li, Ford, & Liu, 2004) Yet with such staggering statistics the government food guide pyramid still recommends nearly 43% of the daily diet to consist of carbohydrates. I don’t believe we need Sherlock Holmes to figure out that such “Standard American Diet” is leading us to nothing but towards SAD existence.  And that it is foolhardy at best an idiotic at worst to follow government guidelines for eating.  PULLEEAAASE. That’s like taking weight loss advice from a fat guy at the Texas State Fair.


Diets consisting mainly of refined sugars and starches contain virtually no vitamins, antioxidants or essential fatty acids; such processed and refined foods cause an excessive production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the immune system causing an inflammatory response. Inflammation is the biggest cause for chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, asthma and many others. The inflammation actually happens to be the symptom of the immune system responding to the presence of unwanted particles in the body. A constant activation of the immune system triggers other chronic conditions in the body, which over time lower the overall immune ability creating a greater susceptibility to other diseases as well as viruses and flu.  Other problems that arise from consumption of refined foods are due to the removal of the essential fatty acids, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber which belong in the food and act as a slowing down mechanism during the break down. An absence of such mechanism results in rapid elevations in blood glucose and therefore, rapid rises in insulin. The insulin spikes due to the increased consumption of refined carbohydrates become the primary factor for obesity as well as the precursor for an insulin resistance syndrome, known as the metabolic syndrome, which then easily leads to diabetes.  Physically inactive lifestyle, consumption of refined and processed foods, minimal consumption of whole fruits and vegetables all contribute to the top ten causes of death. Diabetes, various types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases alone contribute to nearly 70% of deaths in the United States. The sky-rocketing cases of obesity and the metabolic syndrome are predicted to increase even more if no turnaround is made. (Giugliano, Ceriello, & Esposito, 2006)
Making individual choices that promote healthy living and encourage those around us to make good choices as well is the only thing that will turn such terrible predictions around. Choice of food that is closer to its natural state will provide the most nutritional benefit while imposing the least amount of irritation, and therefore least inflammation in the body. Choosing a raw or brown sugar or agave nectar with a lower glycemic index over a highly processed sweetener, choosing a fruit which contains fiber and a slow-digesting sugar over a cookie which only causes an inflammatory response, choosing to walk outside over being planted on the couch in front of the television, all these are choices that present themselves daily before every individual. Let’s take it one choice at a time!

“The Perfect Day of Eating Both Inside and Out.”

No more cereal please! No matter how many times you see the “Special K” commercial, it doesn’t become anymore special than a refined carbohydrate!  Breakfast should include a good source of protein, such as an egg omelet or bacon with eggs, along with a good source of carbohydrate and fiber, such as spinach, tomatoes, steamed asparagus or other vegetable. You can also have a juicy grapefruit or an orange, or a glass of grapefruit, orange or carrot juice, but make sure that the juice is not colored sugar water! Always read the labels and make sure it contains nothing but squeezed oranges, grapefruits or carrots. Notice I have not said anything about a toast! With all of the delicious components of the breakfast there is no more room for a toast on a breakfast menu.  Coffee should be best consumed black, however if you must sweeten it, then use real brown sugar and not Sweet-n-Low, and organic milk or half-n-half is preferred over a synthetic CafeMate.

Sautee some shrimp, chicken or steak with some fresh vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, bok-choy, snap peas and edamame in either olive oil and salt or a sweet and spicy pepper sauce. When buying any sauces or dressings always read the label and make sure it does not contain high fructose syrup or aspartame. Chile or poblano peppers maybe added to the sauté, as they are beneficial by increasing the metabolism. Brown rice or a sweet potato may be added to he lunch menu, but not every day.  If carbohydrates are going to be consumed, best time to enjoy them is after a work out, as your body is more likely to burn them up during that time.

A tasty fresh spinach salad with skirt steak, grilled shrimp, grilled chicken or other great source of protein mixed with slices of green apple, grapes or mandarins, walnuts, goat cheese and finished off with a homemade dressing of extra virgin olive oil, honey and squeezed lime. Such delicious dinner will replenish your body with essential fats, vitamins, phytonutrients and protein after a long day while leaving your body light and your taste buds satisfied!

Between-Meal Snacks
Any nuts (walnuts, peanuts, almonds etc), lean protein sources, as well as colorful fruits or veggies.

Gross, Lee, Li, Li, Ford, Earl, & Liu, Simin. (2004). Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the united states: an ecologic assessment. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 9(5),
Giugliano, D, Ceriello, A, & Esposito, K. (2006). The Effects of diet on inflammation:emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 48(4).


BIO: Inna Dumova is a student at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale FL. She will be pursuing a PhD in Exercise and Nutrition Science at Baylor University.

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