What is the Western Diet, and How Long Have You Been On It?


“The more you process food, the more profitable it is”.

A simple quote that is far more telling about our diets than we may realize, a commentary written by staff at Bates College on the subject of the Western Diet --the eating lifestyle that is the most common here in the United States, was put under a microscope.

Although a majority of us would declare that we are not under any kind of diet at all --that’s untrue. The most popular eating habits of western culture fit like a puzzle piece into the diet aptly named: The Western Diet.




What Foods are in the Western Diet?

High amounts of red meat, refined and processed sugars in various forms and very low fiber. These are the pillars of the Western Diet, and they have a powerful effect on all of our bodies.

According to a study conducted by Forbes, the United States is in second place as the country that eats the most red meat in the world, with an average of 200 pounds of meat consumed per person. The US came up second only to Australia, which on average eats 200.6 pounds of meat per person a year.

A tiny margin, but is it really something to be proud of?

Red meats, but not always the good kind

The issue with the Western Diet is not just that too much red meat is being eaten --its that the food is all processed and altered. The red meat that is being eaten is not necessarily in the form of grass-fed steaks and roasts, but in drive-thru burgers and greasy tacos. The meat that is being consumed by us are all processed and chemically altered, and that much meat (an average of 200 pounds per person every year) can have a severe effect on our bodies.

Refined sugars and sweeteners

A very large portion of the treats and junk foods we enjoy snacking on so much are all carriers of some form of an enriched sweetener.

Up until recently, high fructose corn syrup was in almost every product bound for a shelf life. This particular sweetener was so popular because it was by far one of the sweetest tasting additives to ever touch your tongue --and it made almost everything addicting... and a lot more fattening.

After studies became public of how fattening and detrimental to the public's health high fructose corn syrup really was, it became a black listed ingredient.

You would think that would be the end of altered ingredients and sweeteners...but that’s the beauty of processed foods: it can can be reprocessed, altered and resold very easily.

When a food becomes black listed in the eyes of the public, junk food companies don’t panic. They simply see that they cannot sell that version of that black listed ingredient or product, as its getting bad publicity for whatever reason.

An Example: If the public is blacklisting “fatty” foods, then companies process and refine the exact same product to contain “less fats”. This is an easy process for them because it was always a processed and altered product. The flavor people already love doesn't change, and they get to ease the concerns of the consumer by offering a “low fat” version of the product they already love.

Sales are unaffected, and consumers get to feel like they are doing something positive for their bodies by being smarter. Low sodium, low cholesterol, low calories… all versions that are easy to produce and alter due to the fact that the product was always processed to begin with.

Very Low Fiber, so what?

One of the biggest staples of the Western Diet is the lack of fiber.

Fiber is one of the most important helpers to the gut in breaking down foods, extracting nutrients, and then passing it along with minimal issues. However, all that red meat and junk food that is being sent through our systems with minimal fiber helps set us up to experience discomfort, and eventual intestinal lining decay.

Diets low in dietary fiber may underlie or exacerbate constipation, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins, diverticulitis, hiatal hernia, and gastroesophageal reflux” writes Loren Cordain and Anthony Sebastian, authors of ‘Origins and evolution of the Western Diet’.

“[Fiber-depleted, refined grains represent 85% of the grains consumed in the United States, and because refined grains contain 400% less fiber than do whole grains (by energy), they further dilute the total dietary fiber intake.”

Where can you find more fiber? Whole grains, unrefined breads and whole fruits (skin and all). A shortcut that is recommended would be supplements, which can give your body that boost of fiber it so badly needs to get back on track.

This diet is spreading internationally --and that’s not good news

The Western Diet is a series of bad eating habits that have become a norm.

Is it intrinsically bad on its own? No, not necessarily. Where it becomes harmful is when it goes unregulated and becomes out of control: Red meat with every meal, never any fruits and vegetables or whole grains, and endless junk food.

It is this kind of pattern that will lead to health issues such as low energy, weight gain, painful digestion, and in extreme cases --diabetes.

“In the United States and most Western countries, diet-related chronic diseases represent the single largest cause of morbidity and mortality. These diseases are epidemic in contemporary Westernized populations and typically afflict 50–65% of the adult population, yet they are rare or nonexistent in hunter-gatherers and other less Westernized people” continue Cordain and Sebastian in their study.

“The ultimate factor underlying diseases of civilization is the collision of our ancient genome with the new conditions of life in affluent nations, including the nutritional qualities of recently introduced foods.”

Bottom line, it's the newer versions of food that we should be mindful of how often we eat, as compared to the all natural and original foods that have always been available. Keep it natural as often as possible for optimal dietary health.


Sources Cited
Courage, Katherine, and Katherine Courage. "Fiber-Famished Gut Microbes Linked To Poor Health." Scientific American. N. p., 2017. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.
Cordain, Loren et al. "Origins And Evolution Of The Western Diet: Health Implications For The 21St Century." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005.
College, Western. "Western Diet | Bates Contemplates Food | Bates College." Bates.edu. N. p., 2017. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.
McCarthy, N. “Which Countries Eat the Most Meat Each Year?” Forbes.com. 2015.  

Infographic Studies
[1] Johnson, R. K. et al. "Dietary Sugars Intake And Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From The American Heart Association." Circulation 120.11 (2009): 1011-1020. Web. 23 Mar. 2018. 
[2] Madison Park, CNN. "Half Of Americans Sip Sugary Drinks Daily - CNN." CNN. N. p., 2018. Web. 23 Mar. 2018. 
[3] "Facts & Statistics." HHS.gov. N. p., 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2018. 
[4] "Fast Food Nation." Archive.nytimes.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 23 Mar. 2018. 
[5] "About A Third Of U.S. Kids And Teens Ate Fast Food Today." NPR.org. N. p., 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2018.



Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.

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