Where The American Diet Went Wrong: What We Can Learn From The Healthiest People On Earth

In the 1930s, an American dentist named Weston A. Price made it his mission to discover what was responsible for optimal dental health. For over 10 years he traveled to various parts of the world to study different populations that had been relatively unaffected by western civilization. His travels included rural villages in Switzerland, indigenous North and South American tribes, Polynesian and Melanesian Islanders, Australian Aborigines, and New Zealand Maori.

Findings from his travels revealed that dental defects and decay were primarily influenced by diet and lifestyle, not genetics. His findings also revealed something much more significant as he identified common characteristics these cultures shared beyond just healthy teeth. They had lean physiques, less incidence of chronic diseases, robust immune systems, and excellent mental health. His findings were published in a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration which has stood the test of time and has contributed to the foundations of many whole foods-based dietary movements today.

While there is likely no singular “perfect” human diet, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the diet of the modern Western world is not one of them. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 65% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight or obese. Over 65 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease. Over 11 million have type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, these numbers continue to grow and we need to make a change.

The American diet has increasingly shifted towards agriculturally based foods made from grains and flours that has led to the surge of processed foods our culture embraces today. Healthy eating can be time consuming, and the modern world prioritizes convenience. The abundance of these nutrient-poor, processed, and easily prepared food sources has unfortunately trumped the importance of a diverse, whole foods based diet rich in vitamins and minerals crucial for maximizing health and vitality.

What can we learn from the healthiest people on earth that can be easily incorporated into our everyday diets? Some of it may surprise you. Here are some tips below:

  • Eat unprocessed, whole foods as much as possible. Eliminate, or at least minimize, processed foods.
  • Avoid foods with added or refined sugar.
  • As a general rule of thumb, your shopping cart should consist primarily of foods from the outer rim of the grocery store. These foods tend to consist of fresh, perishable, and more nutrient dense foods. Going down aisles with foods containing processed and preservative-laden foods can get you into trouble.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits. Whether you’re a carnivore, vegetarian or vegan, this is one guideline that is universally agreed upon in the nutrition world. Organic is best as most non-organic produce receives multiple rounds of pesticides.
  • Embrace cholesterol that comes from natural food sources like grass fed meat and eggs. Consuming cholesterol does not increase your likelihood of cardiovascular disease. In 2015 the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and HHS (Human Health Services) stated in a joint report that “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” Cholesterol fortifies the brain and nervous system as well as the intestinal wall lining, to name just a few benefits.
  • Incorporate a well-balanced selection of healthy fats into your diet like olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, raw nuts, eggs, avocados, grass fed meats, palm oil, and organic nut oils. Healthy fats were major components of traditional human diets before processed foods become more prevalent.. Also, many vitamins and minerals require fat to be absorbed by the body, so even if you eat a nutrient-rich diet that is low in fat you will not maximize their absorption.
  • If you tolerate dairy, choose the full fat versions to maximize vitamin/mineral absorption.
  • Supplement with a quality multivitamin. Due to high turnover of soil from increased farming demands the past century, soil is not as nutrient dense as it once was. Therefore, our food is not as nutrient dense either. A good multivitamin helps fill this void.

Have you lost weight or improved your health by transitioning to a diet centered around whole foods? Share below!