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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Profile of the Changing American Diet

In its March 2010 issue, the Nutrition Action Healthletter, a publication of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, reported the following changes in U.S. eating patterns between 1970 and 2007. All quantities are per person per year.

Meat, Poultry, and Seafood
  • Beef - Dropped by about 20% to 40 lb
  • Chicken - Doubled to about 35 lb
  • Pork - Steady at about 28 lb
  • Fish - Increased more than 1/3 to 11 lb
  • Turkey - more than doubled to about 9 lb
Comment: There's still plenty of room for improvement, since beef and pork consumption increase the risk of colon cancer and heart disease.

  • Cheese - Almost tripled to about 25 lb
  • Full fat ice cream - Dropped about 25% to 10 lb
  • Yogurt - Increased more than tenfold to about 8 lb
  • Low fat ice cream - Steady at about 5 lb
Comment: The sharp increase in cheese consumption is not good since most of the calories in cheese come from the kind of saturated fat that raises undesirable blood cholesterol (LDL). Yogurt is usually made from 1% milk, which is better than whole or 2% milk (regular milk is about 3.5%), and usually contains live cultures that benefit the digestive system. Yet all but plain yogurt contain a lot of sugar, usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, the health effects of which remain controversial.

  • White and whole wheat flour - Up about 20% to about 97 lb
  • Corn flour and meal - Almost tripled to about 22 lb
  • Rice - Almost tripled to about 15 lb
  • Oats - Fairly steady at about 2.5 lb
Comment: The overall increase in grain consumption is largely related to our increased total caloric intake. Unfortunately, grains often form the base of salty and calorie-heavy snacks such as corn chips and pretzels. It is best to eat whole grains in the form of bread, pasta, brown rice, quinoa, etc.

Fats and Oils
  • Salad and cooking oil - More than tripled to about 32 gallons
  • Shortening (hydrogenated oils) - Up about 25% over 1970 to about 15 gal but a third less than its peak consumption in 2000-2005
  • Margarine (also hydrogenated oils) - Dropped by 2/3 to about 3 gal
  • Butter - Dropped by 25% to 3 gal
  • Beef and pork fat - Steady at about 2.5 gal
Comment: Vegetable oils are generally considered healthful except when they raise caloric consumption over our daily needs. However, most of us consume an excess ratio of omega-6 oils (abundant in most vegetable oils) to omega-3 oils (abundant in fish and flaxseed oils). Olive oil has less omega-6 fat than most other vegetable oils and is generally regarded as beneficial.

  • Sugared soda - Data only goes back to 1985. Since then there was an increase until 1998 but a 15% drop since then to about 34 gallons
  • Bottled water - Increased from almost nothing to about 29 gal
  • Coffee - Dropped by 25% to 24 gal
  • Beer - Up 20% to 22 gal
  • Milk - Down by 20% to 21 gal. Considering milk types, whole milk has fallen by 3/4 to 4 gal, 2% milk has more than doubled to 5 gal, skim milk has doubled to 2 gal, and 1% milk has gone from almost zero to 2 gal
  • Diet soda - Data only goes back to 1985. Since then its been up 2/3 to 15 gal
  • Fruit drinks - Data only goes back to 1985. Since then its been up 1/3 to 14 gal
  • Fruit juice - Up 1/3 to about 8 gal
  • Wine - Doubled to about 3 gal
Comment: We've gone in the right direction by cutting soda and whole milk consumption, but we still drink too much soda and sweetened drinks.

Fruits and vegetables
  • Vegetables (excluding potatoes) - Increased by 1/3 to 129 lb
  • Fruit - Increased about 5% to 73 lb
  • Fresh potatoes - Decreased by almost half to 25 lb
  • Frozen potatoes - More than doubled to 19 lb.
Comment: The increase in vegetable consumption is very good. However, the switch from fresh to frozen potatoes suggests that people are eating more french fries than mashed or baked potatoes.

Sugars (including corn syrup)
  • Up about 15% to 96 lb
Comment: Of course this is undesirable. Sugars are empty calories that increase the likelihood of weight gain, high blood triglycerides, and other problems.

1 comment:

  1. This is really interesting and informative. I don't drink whole milk, soda, juice or alcohol. Nor do I eat anything like potato chips, crackers, ect. I would be interested to see information about the consumption of these and other processed foods, such as frozen dinners, ect.


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