Problems with the American Diet

 Like everything in health, optimal nutrition is individual. There is no diet that is right for everyone. Your diet interacts with your environment and your genes, your exercise and your relationships to produce the body that you live in.

While I often recommend special diets for people based on their circumstances and needs, I never suggest people go on a temporary weight reduction diet. I believe the people who need to lose weight do better if they undertake permanent lifestyle changes.

Human diets have changed radically in the past 200 years.  We no longer use our bodies for survival, and we no longer eat food that we've gathered ourselves.  Both of these factors have contributed significantly to chronic health problems in our country.

Over the past 40 years scientists learn that increased incidence of cholesterol contributes to heart disease. They made the logical conclusion that diets high in saturated fats are responsible for high cholesterol levels and should be avoided. In response Americans have lowered the fat content of their diets and the food industry has created many low-fat products. Unfortunately, the solution wasn't so simple. As we have replaced fats in our diets with lower fat foods, we've increased our consumption of carbohydrates. We now know that not all fats are problematic and in fact eating a low-fat diet that is high in simple carbohydrates can lead to health problems.


Unfortunately, many people, following the advice of their doctors, replaced saturated fats in their diet with simple carbohydrates, which we now know leads to increased insulin resistance increased heart disease and other degenerative conditions. Many of our dietary staples are highly refined foods that we easily convert into sugar. Highly refined foods are foods that have been altered in factories.  In refining, the parts that cause them to go bad and to have color are usually removed.  This means that the fats and the fiber are removed, along with most of the nutritional content.   Most breads and cereals rice and pastas have been refined.  Eating high amounts of these foods creates significant health challenges, especially to people who are having trouble with insulin resistance or the metabolic syndrome.   Eating large amounts of carbohydrates leads to excessive body fat.   I will try to explain why:
When we eat foods that contain a lot of carbohydrate, the sugars from these foods enter our bloodstream. Our bodies release insulin to transport these sugars into our tissues, where they can either be used to meet our current energy needs, or stored as fat for later use. If we consistently over eat such carbohydrates, our bodies continue to produce large amounts of insulin, which changes our metabolism.  Our metabolism changes from one that prefers energy storage to energy use.   The consequence of this is that we feel low energy, we gain fat, and we crave high carbohydrate foods. This familiar pattern is known to be associated with many degenerative diseases, particularly heart and blood vessel disease.

The Glycemic Index

We now have a system for evaluating foods in terms of how much they cause your blood sugar to rise. Foods are rated according to a standard with glucose being given a score of 100. Foods with a glycemic index greater than 60 are considered to have a high glycemic index, and to challenge your body's ability to handle them using insulin. Whole-grain foods have higher glycemic indices and processed foods. It's containing added sugar as well as juices alcoholic beverages, pastas, potatoes,also have high glycemic indices. Most non-root vegetablesin addition to being loaded with nutrients, have low glycemic indices, and make good choices for people with insulin resistance, diabetes or desire to lose weight.


Carbohydrates and proteins that we eat are broken down and then transported as smaller molecules into our tissues. in contrast, fats in our diet are usually incorporated directly into our cell membranes and used by the body in the form in which they are eaten. In the case of fat, you are almost literally what you eat. Fats are divided into two groups: saturated fats which tend to be stiff fats and when incorporated into your body give the cell membranes shape and form, and fluid fats which are in general unsaturated and when incorporated into our body, give the membranes their essential fluidity. The easy way to tell saturated from unsaturated fats is that saturated fats are solid at room temperature and unsaturated fats are liquid.

Saturated fat

Although some saturated fats is essential, most Americans get far too much. We need to limit our intake of these by choosing lower fat meats and dairy products.

  Unsaturated fats

These are falso called polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These fats are more fluid and are found in fish, particularly cold-water fish, nuts and seeds such as flax seeds and some grains such as canola. A word of warning here – most unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and should be kept in the fridge to avoid spoiling. because unsaturated fats easily become rancid, the food processing industry, in an attempt to make unsaturated fat more available to us, have changed them chemically. these chemically altered oils are called partially hydrogenated. unfortunately, the process hydrogenation produces oils that are toxic. The American Academy of science now says that there is no safe consumption of these oils. these oils are also referred to as having trans-fats. Very few Americans get enough unsaturated fats in our diet. Most of us increase our intake of polyunsaturated fats (essential fats) such as fish oil and flax seed oil in our diets to improve the fluidity of our membranes and the performance of our bodies signalling substances.


Because in the past most Americans ate most of their protein in the form of fatty meat, in our quest to reduce saturated fat in our diet we inadvertently reduced protein. Protein,which is essential to good health, is broken down to amino acids in our body.  We use amino acids for building structural body parts like muscles and also for our detoxification systems, which can consume as much as 80% of our body’s energy. Because protein foods such as meat, dairy and nuts usually also contain fat, we have misguidedly tried to avoid them in recent years. We now know that this approach was mistaken.  Studies at Tufts University in Boston by Rosenberg and Evans have listed muscle mass and muscle strength as the two most important indicators of healthy aging. It is important therefore to eat enough protein to maintain or grow muscle mass. 

Fiber is the part of your food that goes through your body without being absorbed. as humans moved towards a diet high in refined carbohydrates over the past 200 years, our consumption of dietary fiber has decreased radically. This is not to be associated with increased incidence of colon cancer. increase fiber the diet is also known to help prevent diabetes, lower serum cholesterol, and help rid the body of toxins. Sources of dietary fiber.

Healthy eating
Most of us can improve our health radically by improving our nutrition. Although there is not one diet that is perfect for everyone, in general for people desiring weight loss, I think that the South Beach diet is excellent. For people who want to lose weight rapidly but safely, the Institute for Functional Medicine has designed a Protein Sparing Diet.