The Standard American Diet (SAD) leaves too many people overfed and undernourished. The SAD diet is a recipe for weight gain, chronic illness, and a low quality of life. Let’s STAMP it out.
S is for sugar—the white poison that stands for just about everything that’s wrong with the standard American diet. Sugar and other sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup, for example) are added into processed foods. They’re even in foods like soups and salad dressings.
What makes sugar so bad for you? Sugar is caloric and gives you a sweet taste with no nutritional value. We eat so much of it that is displaces other, more nutritious foods from our diet. Sugar is found in so many foods that the average American consumes about 27 teaspoons of it a day, or about 160 pounds a year. That’s more than the body weight of the average woman.
In fact, sugar makes up about 13 percent of the calories on the standard American diet. Over the long run, all that sugar leads to weight gain and chronic disease, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
If stamping out sugar in your diet is hard because that sweet taste is addictive, start by cutting back on foods with added sugar (check the ingredients label) and substituting with naturally sweet foods. Swap those cookies for fresh fruit, for example. Aim to reduce your sugar intake to no more than ten teaspoons a day, or cut it out altogether.
T is for toxins—dangerous substances such as pesticides and food additives that can affect your nervous system and possibly raise your risk of cancer (among many other possible dangers). Toxins are all around us in the form of air pollution, car exhaust, fabric softeners, flame retardant household products, and all the other chemicals we encounter as part of everyday life like beauty and personal products.
We can’t avoid them completely, but we can take active steps to keep them out of our diets and environment.
To stamp out toxins in your diet, choose organically grown fruits and vegetables, wild-caught fish, and pastured meats and poultry. Avoid processed foods, which are full of synthetic chemicals, such as preservatives, coloring and flavorings.
Use cookware that are PFCs (perfluorochemicals) and PFOAs (perfluorooctanoic acid) free. A lot of food packaging, including microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes contain phthalates, among others. Potato chips and French fries, have high levels of acrylamide, a chemical that may cause cancer.
A is for artificial sweeteners—chemicals that add a no-calorie sweet taste to soft drinks, candy, and many low-calorie or diet foods. Sweetness with no calories is good, isn’t it? Not really. Research has shown that people who regularly consume artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (Nutra-Sweet, Equal) actually gain weight.
This apparent contradiction happens because artificial sweeteners trick the brain that sugar sweetness is ingested, and begins to release insulin, setting you on the path of being insulin-resistant and prediabetes. Artificial sweeteners also disrupt your gut bacteria, changing how they absorb nutrients from your food. You may also think that you’ve saved some calories by drinking a diet soda, so it’s OK to eat that donut. It’s also possible that non-caloric sweeteners trigger hormonal responses that lead to weight gain.
Whatever the reason, stamp out artificial sweeteners by eliminating soda-diet or regular-from your diet. The average American drinks about a gallon of soda every week. Whether it’s regular soda or the artificially sweetened kind, it’s bad for you. Substitute flavored sparkling water, unsweetened black or herbal iced tea, or plain water with a slice of lemon or lime.
M is for microbes—the microscopic organism that benefit your digestion. The SAD diet is full of chemicals, sugar, and low-quality fats, in addition to being very low on fiber. That can throw off your gut bacteria and let too many harmful bacteria thrive, resulting in digestive issues, brain fog, joint and muscle pain, and overall inflammation.
Stamp out bad bugs by eating more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and more fermented foods such as live-culture yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Avoid foods containing lactose and gluten. Avoid or limit alcohol intake. To help balance your gut flora, try taking a good probiotic, a supplement that contains billions of several strains of good bacteria in each capsule.
Look for probiotic supplements that contain bacteria from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus families. Purchase your probiotics from responsible manufacturers who use good manufacturing processes to ensure quality, consistency, and safety. The statement saying so should be on the label. In addition to the probiotics, consider prebiotic supplements. These supplements contain a type of plant fiber that feeds the probiotics. Think of them as fertilizer for your gut. Fixing an unbalanced gut bacterium can take six weeks or longer.
P is for processed foods—foods that are stripped of their nutritional value and filled with salt, sugar, oils, and flavorings. They also contain coloring, sweeteners, additives, preservatives, and other chemicals that are designed to enhance flavor. These products are scientifically designed to be extremely tasty, even addictive, but they’re not real food.
They’re calorie and chemical delivery mechanisms that wreaks havoc for your health—and they now make up half of the typical American diet. When you eat these foods, they inflame your body and make you gain weight. If you want a healthier diet that will help you lose weight, don’t count calories—count chemicals. If the ingredients label is full of unpronounceable substances, leave the package on the shelf.
Stamp out processed foods by first realizing what a large part they play in your diet. Chances are that high-calorie, low-nutrition junk food of various sorts is making up about a third of your daily calories. For example, the average American eats over four pounds of potato chips a year—and that’s just one junk food out of many. Cut back on the junk by substituting better choices.
Stamping out a poor diet isn’t as hard as you’d think. It means cutting back on processed foods, cooking for yourself more, avoiding fast-food restaurants, and making better choices at the grocery store. If you aim for gradual, sustainable changes that don’t make you feel deprived, you’ll be able to stick with your new healthy approach.
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