What our food says about us

family preparing healthy meals

Are you eating a "Western Diet?"

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the current U.S. eating pattern was low in vegetables and fruits and high in calories, processed meat, added sugars, saturated fats and sodium. This has become known in scientific circles as the "Western Diet."

"Not only has our diet become less nutritious, but we're also consuming more of it," wrote Michael F. de Lota, MD, Family Medicine at ARC Kyle Plum Creek in this recent article he penned for Austin Fit magazine. "A CDC statistic notes that, from 1999 through 2018, the prevalence of obesity in America increased from 30.5% to 42.4%, leading to a rise in issues such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers."

Insecurity and convenience

"Many of these trends stem from rising food insecurity and increased convenience," says Dr. de Lota. "Processed, pre-packaged foods, ‘heat-and-eat' meals and fast food tend to be cheaper than shopping in the organic or artisanal food aisles of your local grocery store and, when families are short on time, quick meals tend to be the solution."

Pass the salt

"The average American consumes 3,400mg of sodium per day, way over the recommended daily intake of 2,300mg per day," says Dr. de Lota. "This has negative implications on health as salt attracts water, which leads to increased fluid volume in the bloodstream, leading to increased blood pressure. High blood pressure can then increase risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease. In my practice, patients with high blood pressure are often perplexed when I tell them to cut back on salt from their diet. Often, patients tell me, "But I don't even use salt in my food!" They're shocked to learn that over 70% of American salt intake comes pre-packaged in our food, not from a salt shaker."

Sugar high

"In 2015, the average American consumed 126.4 grams of sugar per day, and that doesn't include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) — a synthetic sugar derived from corn," says Dr. de Lota. "Consumption of excessive amounts of sugar, especially HFCS, can lead to disruption of the gut microbiome and can then lead to liver inflammation, fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis and cancer. HFCS consumption has also been linked to high blood pressure, weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes."

Travel tips

"When traveling, we often concede poor eating habits, over-eating, and minimal physical activity," says Dr. de Lota. "Although traveling does cause us to deviate from our normal nutritional routine, there are still ways we can keep healthy."

  • Eat local. Eat in smaller places that source their ingredients locally.
  • If you're buying ingredients to cook, go to local markets and smaller grocers.
  • Track of your intake. If you can't decide what to eat, order a la carte dishes to sample the local cuisine.
  • Document what you've eaten to track calories and macros.
  • Finally, ditch the rental car and walk or ride a bike.

If our food tells a story about who we are, how would your story read and what changes would you make?

Make an appointment

Make an appointment with Dr. de Lota online at ARCBookNow.com, or by calling ARC Kyle Plum Creek at 512-295-1333. If you are interested in making a lifestyle change, consider the ARC Healthiness program.

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