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Sunday 5 February 2017

Americans are eating way more fat. But it’s not butter

A new report reveals a lot about how the American diet is shifting.

A new report from the US Department of Agriculture tracks how food consumption patterns in the US have changed over the past 40 years by looking at how many fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, dairy, added fats and oils, and added sugars and sweeteners per capita are available. (Food availability data, adjusted for food loss, is a pretty good proxy for consumption.)

The main finding is no surprise at all: Americans are eating more of all of the major food groups, too many fats, sugars, and grains, and too few fruits and vegetables.

But things get interesting when you start looking at changes in certain fruits and vegetables and our shifting nutrient consumption — which involves a lot more added fat.

It turns out the avocado supply has surged by 1,342 percent since 1970, while lime availability is up by 1,654 percent. In case you hadn’t noticed, Americans are loco for guacamole and chips and margaritas.

Another surprise: Mango consumption has exploded by about 3,200 percent, while grapefruit, oranges, peaches, and plums are less in favor than they used to be. Apples, melons, and bananas are the top three most available fruits, as they were in 1970.

As for vegetables, Americans ate way more broccoli and mushrooms in 2014 compared to the 1970s: The availability went up by 1,146 percent and 937 percent respectively — the most dramatic changes in the vegetable category. (In case you were wondering, kale wasn’t tracked in this report.) And by pounds per capita, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and lettuce are still favorites. Some things change, and some things stay the same.

Beyond fruits and veggies, Americans today eat more chicken and less beef, way more yogurt and less milk. Breaking these foods out by nutrients, though, tells an even more intriguing story.

Right now, there’s a lot of discussion among health experts about sugar in the American diet. The anti-sugar camp often suggests that, during the low-fat craze, we replaced fat with sugar in our diets — and our waistlines and health have suffered since.

But new report from the US Department of Agriculture finds Americans are consuming more added fats and oils than ever — while sugar consumption has been on the decline.

This chart from the report, which tracked changes in US food consumption patterns over the past 40, shows how per capita availability of added fats and oils increased 57 percent between 1970 and 2010 overall.

The most tremendous jump in fats is vegetable fats and oils — 87 percent. That includes salad and cooking oils (canola and olive) which are up by 248 percent. (Note, these are the “unsaturated fats” that are often deemed healthier.)

Meanwhile, animal fats like butter and lard are down by 27 percent — these are “saturated fats” that are deemed less healthy. In particular, butter availability dropped by 8 percent and lard by a whopping 65 percent. So we’ve followed the dietary advice to swap saturated fats with unsaturated fats, but we’re still getting way too many calories from fat — and fat is the most calorie-dense nutrient of them all.

At the same time, the per capita availability of added sugars and sweeteners grew only 10 percent between 1970 and 2014 — a fraction of the rise in added fat consumption.

Americans still consume way too much added sugar — and it’s interesting to note that corn sweeteners are going down, while refined cane and beet sugars are going up.

To put all the nutrients in perspective, check out this chart.

While the specific foods in certain food groups are changing, we’re simply eating more of everything. And in this same time period, the obesity rate has tripled



Adam said...

That's not too shocking

Kezzie said...

This is utterly fascinating to read!!!

DeniseinVA said...

Great article and quite startling. Good to know Graham, thank you.

The Happy Whisk said...

Not this American.

Conniecrafter said...

Although I don't like guacamole, I do know that people like it and we have been told it is a healthy fat, also told that olive oil is more healthy than corn or canola oils. We can use butter but in less amounts. The eating plan I am on we are to eat only items that have 5 or less grams of sugar, and as few ingredients as possible, and all that we can pronounce or know. I will have to say that the majority of the things you listed as onions lettuce and spinach is a big staple in my diet, and we do try to eat more chicken than beef, although we have that at least 2-3 times a week. I have not bought sugar in the past two years

baili said...

your dish looks great!
i like the zest of mint in some dishes .
just like Americans people's attitude has changed towards the eating and even the way of eating i think all over the world including my country .
This report reveals perfect truth about the new eating habits of people .
yes i can see that people are getting addicted to fast foods ,more fats and sugar .
veggies and fruits are almost are not their first choice anymore.