Standard American Diet Creates Imbalances of Micronutrients
The standard American diet has become the catch phrase for the way the average American eats. This style of eating is significantly different than the way our ancestors ate. Not only is the food itself different, but the composition of the food that is being consumed is not the same either. Today’s food lacks both on a large and small scale. What I mean by this is that the contents of the food today is much less nutritious and does not have the same health promoting quality.
Seeing the Imbalance of Micronutrients
One of the main differences between those that were eating a primal diet and those that are now consuming the standard American diet is the breakdown of the macronutrients in the diet. Macronutrients are what we think about as the protein, fats and carbohydrate in our food. Though no technically considered a macronutrient, I will also include fiber in our list due to its role. The macronutrient composition of the person eating a primal diet, or the Paleo Diet as it is more commonly known, would have focused more on proteins, fats and fiber. Dense sources of carbohydrates are not readily available in nature. Foods that are dense in carbohydrates are the result of agriculture. They are not as easily found when you are hunting and gathering your food. In sharp contrast, the standard American diet has shifted to highlight the influence of agriculture. The macronutrient breakdown for much of society today is composed of higher amounts of carbohydrates, some fats and protein and little fiber. With such a dramatic shift in macronutrient breakdown, negative effects are guaranteed to en sue.
It’s the Small Things that Matter
However it is not just the large nutrients, or macronutrients in the diet that are grossly different. Rather, it is also the small nutrients, or the micronutrients. The standard American diet is a gateway to malnourishment. How can this be? With so many people overeating, it is indeed true that the standard American diet can lead to malnourishment. It does this through not supplying adequate amounts of micronutrients. Micronutrients are numerous. There are many times more micronutrients than there are macronutrients. We typically think about micronutrients as vitamins and minerals, yet amino acids and some metabolites also are considered micronutrients. These are the compounds that are found in our food that help spark our body to function efficiently.
As might be expected though, these are not found in adequate quantities in the standard American diet. This is why even individuals that eat often can be malnourished. Their bodies still do not receive the cofactors that it needs. Micronutrients are one of the first things that are lost in the refining process. The process of taking a food out of its natural state strips the nutrients out of it as well. As such, you are left with a food substance that does not have the same life promoting qualities as the food that was found in nature. Also, the ugly side of modern agriculture presents again. Due to high demands for crop yield year after year, the amount of nutrients that should be found in the soil is no long there. This means that foods are making it to market with substandard quantities of nutrients. Add together these types of farming practices and refining of food and nutrient deficiencies become rampant. No wonder so many of my new patients test low for micronutrient deficiencies.
The standard American diet lacks large and small. It does not have the macronutrient composition to support a balanced body nor does it contain the micronutrients that act as spark plugs for us to keep our system fine-tuned and firing on all cylinders. The notion of consuming a dietary pattern that can support both the large and small nutrient needs of our body is best achieved by consuming a primal diet, aka the Paleo Diet.