06 August, 2010
What does America Eat?
The average American consumes 1,996.3 pounds of food in a year - almost five and a half pounds each day. Another source pegs this at over 3500 calories a day. We certainly are well fed people.
Dairy products top the list of what we consume, at 631.7 pounds. 181 pounds of that is 'milk beverages'. When we milked our goats, we figured a gallon of milk weighs ten pounds. So, the average American drinks not quite one and a half quarts of milk (beverages) each week - a third of soda consumption. Cheese is broken out separately on the chart. The 31.4 pounds of cheese a year comes to almost a pound and two thirds a week. The chart does not say, but one wonders how much of that is 'cheese food' or the fake cheese that often comes with fast food. Also, Americans eat, on average, 24 pounds of ice cream per year or about a half gallon every week. Do you think that we eat a lot more in the summer than at other times of the year?
The next most consumed foods on this list look like good news - vegetables total 415.4 pounds per year. At a little over a pound of veggies a day, it looks like we are beginning to listen to those who promote the '5 a day' campaign. Yet, we still have a long way to go.
Unfortunately, 56 pounds of our vegetable choice is corn, which is one of the most heavily genetically modified (GMO) foods on the market. Since labeling of GMO is not required, especially for ingredients in prepared foods, we have no way of knowing whether we are eating GMO corn or not when these foods are on our menu. Corn is also notoriously hard to digest and a leading cause of food allergies.
Americans also eat 29 pounds of French Fries -- about three quarters of a pound each week or not quite 3 biggie fries orders. We could go on and on about the dangers of eating French Fries frequently (every two or three days by this chart). One thing that is overlooked it that potatoes are at the top of the 'dirty dozen' most heavily pesticide laden foods on the market. Couple that with deep frying at high temperatures and it looks like a recipe for health disaster. Maybe you want to focus on the 'Clean 15' if we do not want to fork out the bucks for organic. Better yet, let's support organic growers and suppliers so that we show them that we want safe, nutritious foods.
Fruits come in third at 273.2 pounds (3/4 of a pound a day - maybe an organic apple, to keep the doctor away?). Again this sounds like we might be headed in the right direction. These are not broken down by type, however. Many of those which are most available -- apples, peaches, imported grapes, strawberries, domestic cherries, and nectarines -- are on the 'Dirty Dozen' list. Once again, it may be worth it for your health to switch to the 'Clean 15' or make the commitment to buying organic. Imagine the impact it would make if you buy one organic fruit a day.
Animal protein foods are next, adding up to 232.4 pounds -- about a quarter pound per meal. Most authorities agree that a quarter pound is a reasonable serving of animal protein. Much controversy surrounds the chemical contamination of these foods as well.
We certainly indulge our sweet tooth. 165.6 pounds of caloric and artificial sweeteners are consumed by the average American each year. That is eight percent of food consumption. Perhaps the 53 gallons of sodas account for a good bit of this consumption - along with much of the caffeine. Most sweeteners are devoid of nutrients and sodas can be faulted in the same manner. In order to be metabolized, they use up valuable resources in the body. Artificial sweeteners carry much darker dangers. Thus, they become anti-nutrients. It would seem that substituting some fruit to satisfy the sweet tooth could make a big impact on a person's health. Half a pound of fruit - maybe a banana or a kiwi - is also much more satisfying to the brain, the palate, and the tummy than this anti-food.
World agriculture produces enough food calories to meet the energy needs of all the nearly 6 billion people alive today. Global agriculture keeps pace with population growth. Nevertheless, during any year in which enough calories are produced on a global level to meet the energy requirements of the entire population, food shortages can still occur under two situations: If the patterning of production directs too many calories into animals instead of humans, some enjoy meat while others lack calories; Alternatively, overemphasis on production of calories (sugar producing crops and overly refined grains) may jeopardize the production of other protein- or micronutrient- rich foods that also enter into the calculus of global food security or shortage.
The numbers of people potentially supported by the global food supply depend heavily on the kind of diet people consume. The World Hunger Program calculates that global food supplies have been more than adequate, since the mid-1970s, to support the world's population on a vegetarian diet. But they would support only 74 per cent of the 1993 population on a diet where 15 per cent of calories come from animal foods. Only 56 per cent of the 1993 world population could have been provided with diets where 25 per cent of calories came from animal foods. Increased demand for meat is a particular concern, since livestock conversions, usually calculated in terms of food energy grain-to-livestock ratios, are high. In a feedlot, it takes two kilos (kilograms) of grain to produce one kilo of chicken or fish, four kilos to produce one kilo of pork, and seven to produce one kilo of beef. In the 1990s, it was calculated that some 4.3 billion large domesticated animals and 17 billion poultry ate 40 per cent of the world's grain supply.
If we add together the meat and milk products (864.1 pounds) in the American diet, we find that 43.3 percent of the American diet comes from animal products. This does not take into account butter and lard, from the oils category. The chart does not compare calories, but certainly, Americans consume much more than their fair share of food in general, but particularly foods from animal sources. Study after study shows that diets high in vegetable content foster healthier, longer lived peoples.
As you plan next week's menus, think about altering some of your food choices. Take into account the benefits to both your health, and the world's economy. Here is a handy tool to help you make better choices about your exposure to toxic chemicals.