Although a third of the world would be better off on the typical American diet, it’s not ideal, but the defects are not what you believe.What should you worry about?
Protein? Not a problem. Most adults consume more than they need. There’s no advantage to a high protein diet but not much harm either. Your body will use as much as it needs and turn the rest into fat.
Carbohydrates? Americans should eat more. With obesity so common this sounds peculiar, but grains, vegetables, and fruits tend to have fewer calories. They’re also high in roughage. Americans need more roughage.
Fats? Fat is OK. Eat less animal fat but more chicken, fish, or vegetable fat. This lowers your cholesterol, but a low cholesterol diet is not particularly low in calories. Fat is fat.
Sugar? Americans consider sugar positively sinful. Like sin, it’s probably not good for you. Sugar certainly contributes to obesity and tooth decay but doesn’t cause serious diseases such as diabetes or heart attacks.
Preservatives? They may do more good than harm. In poor countries a leading killer of children is diarrhea, often from spoiled food. This was also true in the U.S. during the nineteenth century. Refrigeration and canning makes this less of a problem today, but considering how careless we are storing and preparing food, preservatives still prevent disease.
Here are questions I hear most often.
“How can I make sure my diet is nourishing?”
Answer: “Eat a variety of food. By consuming a good mixture of vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and dairy products, you’ll get everything you need.”
“How will I know if I’m missing something? For example, how can I get enough riboflavin? What foods have riboflavin?”
Answer: “I don’t know.”
“You’re a doctor, and you don’t know the foods with riboflavin?”
Answer: “I could look it up. It’s not important. Eating a variety is important.”
“I haven’t had much energy lately. Is it because I’m not eating right?”
Answer: “Probably not.”