It’s no secret that eating habits have changed significantly over the past few decades. While it’s true that Americans have been a bit more health-conscious over recent years (hence the sudden spike in juice cleanses and “teatoxing”), they’ve also unknowingly engaged in some negative diet changes as well. Need an example? Well, an examination of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s data directed by the Pew Research Center just found that the average American consumes more than 77 pounds of sugar each year. Talk about poor diet choices.
Well, that number (it was taken from data collected in 2014) is surprisingly a decrease from the amount of sugar consumed in 1970. However, the data found that while overall sugar intake is decreasing, consumption of artificial sweeteners (think high-fructose corn syrup that’s found in prepackaged food) is actually increasing, which isn’t exactly good news for our health.
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Although, this study didn’t focus only on sugar. According to the breakdown, Americans consume about 36 pounds of cooking oil every year (three times more than in 1970), 47.9 pounds of chicken (more than double the amount from 1970), 12.6 gallons of milk (42 percent less than in 1970) and 21.9 pounds of cheese (three times more than in 1970). For a more visual analysis, check out the breakdown of diet changes below:
While these numbers might not seem too worrisome (other than the scary amount of sugar consumed), the sharp increase in cheese and cooking oil could be major causes for the rise in the rate of obesity in Americans. Cooking oil is extremely high in calories, which ups the average amount of calories a person eats each day, making weight loss more difficult to achieve. On the other hand, cheese is high in salt and saturated fat, which can contribute to early onset heart disease, especially for those who are overweight.
Luckily, the data contained some good news as well. Beef intake fell by a third, lowering the average to only 39.4 pounds eaten per year, and chicken consumption doubled to 47.9 pounds, showing that people have been swapping out their food for healthier options. Plus, the consumption of yogurt, which is known by nutritionists as an ultra-healthy snack that’s full of good-for-you probiotics, has increased by a whopping 1,700 percent (it’s up to 1.2 gallons per year now!).
While these findings are all pretty surprising, the major takeaway here is that American’s still have a long way to go when it comes to improving their diet. Sure, an increase in healthy snacking and lean meats is a step in the right direction, but the extraordinarily high levels of artificial sweeteners and trans fats are major contributors to common health problems. Fortunately, consumers are more educated then ever when it comes to nutrition, so hopefully these findings will help push all of us toward a healthier diet.