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Heart disease is on the rise, and it's the number one cause of death in this nation. Life expectancy for Americans just went down for the first time since 1993, and it's most certainly linked to the Western diet. Your diet may actually be killing you.

Is your diet killing you? All American’s should be asking themselves this question, and we should be scrutinizing everything we put on our plates because for the first time since 1993 the life expectancy for Americans has dropped according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and it seems that all signs point to the evolution of the Western diet.

A Diet History Lesson

As we all know, technology advances at head-spinning rates. You think you are caught up on technology, and then it changes again. As a population, we have made amazing advances in just the past 100 years.  If you have a great grandparent in their 90s, think of all the things they have seen come to fruition.

These advances are found everywhere, even in agriculture. How else would we feed the approximately 319 million people in the United States? Technology of course. However, with technology comes mass production of food and processed foods. Think of all the products you can buy at your grocery store. The products are limitless.

Can you imagine what a grocery store or food market looked like just 100 years ago? Fruits and vegetables were only seasonally available. Almost all fruit was available only in spring and summer months, and warm weather and cold weather vegetables were grown at appropriate times. People ate foods prepared through recipes from their grandmothers, and all recipes were derived from raw foods, herbs, and spices.

There was not a way to calculate macronutrients or read a food label for nutrition information because it was a non-issue. There were no sugar substitutes or Hamburger Helper packs to thrown in with a pound of beef, and Blue Bell was a young company, so that wasn’t in the grocery cart every week. It was a rarity and a special treat not enjoyed very often.

Where Did Things Start Going Wrong?

Timeline of Food Problems:

1950s – The fast food industry began booming. Hello easy meals.

1960s - High fructose corn syrup was introduced. It was cheaper than sugar, and it was used in mass to produce processed foods. Thankfully, now we are seeing many companies leaving high fructose corn syrup behind. Every small shift that consumers demand is going to be helpful for future generations.

1980s – TV dinners became a replacement for home cooked meals as family lives changed and became “busier” for households with two working parents. Good bye home cooking, and hello to the amazing invention, the microwave, and microwaveable meals.

1990s – Do you remember the commercial that said, “I just wanna eat the bread?” It was a Mrs. Baird’s famous commercial. Now we know that we shouldn’t be eating the white bread, but kids from the 90s sure filled up on it.

This food time line could go on and on, but truly flour and sugar cravings are the devils of diet. They have been the biggest contributors to the demise of our current diets.

Weight Gain On The Rise: A Sad Outlook For Our Upcoming Adults

What it all boils down to is that Americans are making “easy” choices.

The USDA (2010) states, “Americans choose foods that are not in nutrient-dense forms. These foods provide additional, empty calories compared to a nutrient-dense version of the same food. The extra calories from added fats and sugars, or refined grains (breading) are from about one-quarter to more than half of the total calories in the food product.”

What’s even more shocking…

In a report by Cordain et al. (2005), they found that “Dairy products, cereals, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, and alcohol make up 72.1% of the total daily energy consumed by all people in the United States.” We simply can’t expect our bodies to thrive off of these types of foods.

When we think about our ancestors, we know that little to none of these foods were staples in their diets because these choices simply weren’t available. Rapid evolutionary dietary changes allow us to make poor choices every day and making poor food choices will continue to shorten our lives unless the people of this nation begin to make better choices for themselves and their families.

Healthy has to be a habit.

Though many advances in food technology have helped us to have a more complete diet year round, these rapid evolutionary dietary changes have also contributed to a gluttonous society with serious, nation-wide food issues to resolve.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Childhood Obesity Facts. (2015, August 27). Retrieved December 20, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm
  • Cordain, L., Boyd Eaton, S., Sebastian, A., Mann, N., Lindeburg, S., Watkins, B. A., . . . Brand-Miller, J. (2005). Origins and evolution of the Western diet: Health implications for the 21st century. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,81, 341-54. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/81/2/341.full
  • Lief, E. (2016, December 12). Life Expectancy for Americans Drops for First Time Since 1993. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from http://www.acsh.org/news/2016/12/12/life-expectancy-americans-drops-first-time-1993-10574
  • United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 30, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
  • United States, U.S. Department of Agriculture U.S. Department of Health and Human Services , USDA. (2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (pp. 1-112). USDA. https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/dietary_guidelines_for_americans/PolicyDoc.pdf
  • Infographic by SteadyHealth.com
  • Photo courtesy of Michael Stern: www.flickr.com/photos/68711844@N07/15204286153/

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