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Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: The Myth of Moderation Pt 1: Do All Foods

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The Myth of Moderation Pt 1: Do All Foods Really Fit?

You know what they say when it comes to what to eat,”everything in moderation.”     Whether it is chocolate, wine, red meat, dessert, etc.  Nothing is bad, in and of itself, as long as we just don’t consume too much of it.

But, how do we would define “too much” and how do we know if we have surpassed this?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Our current concept of “everything in moderation” comes from ancient Greece, where at the temple of Apollo at Delphi there was the inscription, “Meden Agan” or  “Nothing in Excess.”    From this, we got the concept of doing something “in moderation” which means, not doing it excessively.    Therefore, someone who moderates their food consumption may choose to eat food from all food groups, but will limit their intake of those foods that may cause deleterious effects to harmless levels.

So, how are we doing in this area?

The items we know that are causing harm to Americans right now are the excess consumption of added sugars, refined grains, sodium, fat, and saturated fat.

So, how much does the average American consume of these?

Added Sugars – 242% over the recommended upper limit.

Refined Grains – 200% over the recommended upper limit.

Sodium – 229% over the recommended upper limit.

Saturated fats – 158% over the recommended upper limit.

Solid fats – 281% over the recommended upper limit.

Therefore, these are 5 items we can no longer consume “in moderation” as their current level of consumption is far beyond the level we know to cause harm.   The only solution is a dramatic reduction in the amounts we consume of these items.   Then, and only then, perhaps we can again, consume these things in moderation.

However, there is also a flip side to the saying “everything in moderation.”   There are items that we know are very beneficial, that we should be consuming a certain amount of in order to gain their benefit.  These are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber.

So, how much does the average American consume of these?

Fruits – only 42% of the recommended minimum intake.

Vegetables – only 59% of the recommended minimum intake

Whole Grains – only 15% of the recommended minimum intake.

Fiber – only 40% of the recommended minimum intake.

Therefore, these are also items we can no longer consume in moderation as their current level of consumption is far below the level we know to be beneficial.   The only solution is a dramatic increase in the amounts we consume of these items.   Then, and only then, perhaps we can again, consume these things in moderation.

Here are two charts highlighting the above information

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In addition, over 2/3′s of Americans are currently overweight and over 1/3 are obese. We did not get this way by consuming “all things in moderation.”  We got this way by consuming many things, and many of the wrong things, in excess.  Great excess.  And, the USDA figures in the above graph, bears this out as since 1970, the average American consumes 30% more calories with most of these calories coming from added sugars, solid fats, saturated fats and refined grains.

Even the saying from the American Dietitic Association, “All foods fit,” has been taken out of context. The original saying is not “all foods fit,”  but, ”All foods can fit into a healthful diet ‘if’ consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity.”

As we see, Americans’ are not consuming foods in moderation nor are we engaged in regular activity as over 70% of Americans do not even meet the minimum recommendations for activity/exercise.   This is why the current concepts of”everything in moderation” and “all foods fit”  for the average American today is a myth.

Moderation is no longer an option in regard to calories, or in regard to the foods we know can be harmful, or in regard to the foods we know to be beneficial.  We are so far from what constitutes healthy in America, that we have much work to do to get back to where we could once again discuss moderation.  Rationalizing the over consumption of harmful foods, or the minimal consumption of beneficial foods, with a saying that does not apply to our situation, will not help us.

We have to at least double the intake of fruits, vegetables and fiber just to reach the minimum recommendations.  In addition, we have to cut our consumption of added sugars, fat, sat fat and sodium in at least half just to get down to the upper level of the recommended limits.

Moderation will not help accomplish this.

We need a dramatic shift in our understanding of our current situation and the solution we take.

In Health,

Jeff

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