Here’s what shocking about American diets: They are probably worse than you think. We lead the world in sugar consumption and stink at eating enough fruits and vegetables. We also typically exceed the recommended intake levels of calories from solid fats, added sugars, refined grains, sodium and saturated fats, according to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.
Although that government source reports some positive news — 68.7 percent of Vermont residents are getting at least five daily servings of vegetables at least four times a week — for the most part, its Facts & Statistics page is bleak. Here’s a look at some shocking statistics about American diets, as well as information about living a healthier lifestyle:
We lead the world in sugar consumption.
In the United States, the average person consumes 126.4 grams of sugar per day, according to a Washington Post news story. That amount of sugar equals more than three, 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola, and is more than twice the intake recommended by the World Health Organization, the Washington Post reported.
Almost half of Americans don’t frequently eat fruits and vegetables.
Most Americans eat less than the USDA recommended amounts of vegetables and fruits, says the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Even more shocking: Almost 40 percent of Americans don’t frequently eat vegetables. According to Gallup polling, the national average for regular produce consumption was 57.7 percent in 2013.
Our kids get nearly 40 percent of their calories from “empty” sources like added sugars and solid fats.
Almost 40 percent of the total daily calories for children ages 2-18 come from empty sources like added sugars and solid fats, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Half of these calories come from the following sources:
- Fruit drinks
- Dairy desserts
- Grain desserts
- Whole milk
About 90 percent of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.
Federal guidelines recommend less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, but U.S. adults consume an average of 3,400 mg per day, says the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.
And reducing the sodium we eat by 1,200 mg per day could have a big impact on savings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that that reduction could save a staggering $20 billion each year in medical costs.
More than 78 million U.S. adults and some 12.5 million children and adolescents are obese.
A 2009-2010 brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks those numbers. And obesity in America is a growing problem, fueling a billion-dollar weight loss industry. A report in The Lancet British medical journal projects that by 2030, half of all adults in the United States will be obese. A host of health problems can accompany obesity, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
American Diets: What you can do
Diets high in processed foods can increase the number of harmful free radicals wreaking havoc on your body. At the same time, not nearly enough Americans reap the antioxidant benefits of fruits and vegetables. To offset dietary damage, try to follow the guidelines set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture. A supplement that boosts your body’s level of antioxidants can also work to combat environmental triggers of free radicals.