Kris Gunnars from Authority Nutrition recently wrote an article for Business Insider concerning the failings of the modern diet, as illustrated through research. As someone who spent the last 5 years of her life immersed in statistical analysis, arguing correlation and causation, I appreciate the linear picture these charts illustrate. If you're an artsy-fartsy type, you might not, but I'm including all the take-home-messages in BOLD underneath the analytical explanation…the world needs all kinds of kinds, right? A little background: the world today, America in particular, is the fattest and sickest we've ever been. When we abandon real, traditional foods in favor of modern processed foods high in sugar, refined flour and vegetable oils, we encourage the prevalence of chronic diseases such as obesity, type II diabetes and heart disease. Below are 11 pictures perfectly illustrating where we've messed up.
1. Sugar has gone up exponentially in the past 160 years:
This chart, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition depicts the increase in refined sugar consumption correlated with the rise in obesity. People in Western countries are consuming disgusting amounts of refined sugars, reaching approximately 150 lbs per year in some countries (over 500 calories of sugar per day). How many diabetic people do you know? If this trend continues, your children won't just have diabetic friends, they might be one of many who have are insulin resistant due to this alarming sugar intake.
Take Home: Eat less (or eliminate) refined sugar.
2. Consumption of sugary-beverages has gone up dramatically:
Soda and juice are sugar-laden, empty calories with absolutely zero nutritional value. Unfortunately, our consumption of those liquid calories is on the rise, while milk and water (beverages with redeeming qualities) are on the decline. See chart #1 if you're still unsure why this is a bad thing.
Take Home: Drink more water. Ditch the rest.
3. Calorie intake has increased by more than 400 calories per day:
For a few reasons: increased marketability, increased availability, higher production of processed, portable food selections and laziness. We eat more because we can, not because we need to. Weight loss boils down to calories in vs. calories out. We're heavier now because we're consuming more calories than we expend.
Take Home: Food is fuel. Get off your butt and eat when you're hungry, not when you're bored.
4. We've abandoned traditional fat for processed vegetable oils:
At one point health professionals blamed saturated fat for heart disease. As a result, people stopped consuming butter, lard and coconut oil and started consuming vegetable oils. Several years and many research studies later, it's been determined that these hydrogenated fats are actually higher in trans fats (the bad kind) and increase your risk of heart disease. The misguided advice to avoid saturated fat and choose vegetable oils instead may have actually fueled the heart disease epidemic.
Take Home: Eat real food. Fat included.
5. People replaced heart-healthy butter with trans-fat laden margarine:
Remember that post I wrote about how butter was among the healthiest cooking fats? Yeah…I didn't make that up. Grass-fed butter actually contains nutrients that are protective against heart disease, such as vitamin K2, therefore the advice to replace heart-healthy butter with trans-fat laden margarine has done more damage than good. Why anyone would think it best to replace something real, made with whole ingredients with something hydrogenated and processed is crazy talk.
Take Home: Choose butter over vegetable oil.
6. Soybean oil has become a major source of calories:
Not to brag, but remember that post about the 3 "Healthy" Foods To Avoid (soy being one of them)? Well, it's true. Soy is one of the most genetically modified crops, resulting in skewed hormones and fat storage - yikes! The most commonly consumed vegetable oil in the U.S. is soybean oil, providing 7% of calories in the U.S. diet which is huge! Where is soybean oil hiding in your diet? Processed foods.
Take Home: If it comes in a box, bag or package and says "hydrogenated", drop it like it's hot!
7. Modern wheat is less nutritious:
Modern Dwarf Wheat was introduced around the year 1960, which contains 19-28% less of important minerals like Magnesium, Iron, Zinc and Copper. Evidence also shows that modern wheat is much more harmful to celiac patients and people with gluten sensitivity, compared to older breeds like Einkorn wheat. Wheat may have been relatively healthy back in the day, but unfortunately, the same is not true today. Products like pastries, bread, bagels, pasta and pizza offer very little nutritionally anymore.
Take Home: Monitor your wheat consumption.
8. Egg consumption has gone down:
Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. Despite being high in cholesterol, eggs don't raise the bad cholesterol in the blood. I'll say it again - eggs DO NOT raise your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). There is also no evidence that they contribute to heart disease and yet, since the year 1950, we have decreased our consumption of eggs from 375 to 250 per year - a decrease of 33%. So instead of starting our day with healthy fat and protein, we opt for a bowl of sugar and hydrogenated oil instead. Come on! Remember when your mom would say, "make healthy choices"!? Well…do it!
Take Home: Eat more eggs.
9. People are double fisting processed junk:
This graph shows the increase in fast food consumption in the past few decades. Keep in mind that even though it looks like people are still eating most of their foods "at home", this does not take into account the fact that most people are eating processed, pre-packaged foods at home…or even take out. "You are what you eat" - we've all heard that before. So if you eat out at a greasy, fake fast-food chain…your insides will one day resemble their kitchen floor. Did I take that too far?
Take Home: Educate yourself. Prepare and cook your own food.
10. Increased vegetable oil consumption has changed the fatty acid composition in our bodies:
Background Notes: Omega 3's are good. Omega 6's are not-so-good.
Most of the Omega-6 fats that people are eating is a fatty acid called linoleic acid. This acid gets incorporated into our cell membranes and body fat stores (you are what you eat, right?) which damages molecules, like DNA, in the body and potentially increasing our risk of cancer. In short, the increased consumption of processed vegetable oils has lead to actual harmful structural changes in our bodies.
More Omega 3's, fewer Omega 6's.
11. The low-fat dietary guidelines were published around the same time as the obesity epidemic:
Coincidence? Doubtful. But, all of you students out there know that correlation does not equal causation so don't point your finger just yet. The anti-fat message published in 1977 essentially put the blame on saturated fat and cholesterol (harmless), while giving sugar and refined carbs (very unhealthy) a free pass. Many studies have been conducted on the low-fat diet and finding show that it is no better at preventing heart disease, obesity or cancer than the standard Western diet, which is as unhealthy as a diet can get. For some very strange reason, we are still being advised to follow this type of diet, despite the studies showing it to be completely ineffective.
Take Home: Eat fat to lose fat.
Eat well. Live well. Be well.