Maytinee Kramer / Contributing Writer
The developing world is seeing rapid urbanization along with a transition in nutrition and lifestyle. More people have adopted a “western” diet consisting of red meat, refined sugars and saturated fat – but have decreased their consumption in fruits and vegetables. With higher income, people are now able to afford more, thus they have diets rich in meat and processed foods, which have little nutritional value and many empty calories. This this can lead to negative health consequences and increase risk of disease.
Humans are craving more fats and sweets, and under the convenience culture we have established for ourselves, we have easier access than ever to satisfy those cravings.
The “western” diet is one that is high in processed foods, with big features from overconsumption of refined sugars, sodium, saturated fats, animal protein and few plant-based fibers. Ian Myles from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases describes this diet as “a trend aided by the move towards a culture of fast food.”
Highly processed foods throw the immune system off balance. Ingredients such as palmitic acid can be confused by the body for bacteria like E. Coli. The immune system attacks the supposed bacteria, resulting in slight inflammation. This is like a distraction for the immune system – if a real infection were to enter the body, the immune cells would not be sufficiently ready for an attack. In addition, eating processed foods can push good bacteria out of the intestines, leaving a person more exposed to bad bacteria.
There has been a rise in the rates of obesity and diabetes across the world. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 2 billion adults in the world were overweight in 2014, and more than 600 million were obese. With obesity comes inflammation, increasing the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and joint conditions. Type II diabetes is also soaring in every country according to the IDF diabetes atlas. Recent studies have also found links between the typical western diet and increased risks of colon and prostate cancer. These cancers are, again, linked to inflammation and changes in intestinal activity.
As everyone knows, eating a healthy, balanced diet is important in order to maintain a healthy, balanced body and immune system. A simple change in diet can remove exposure to unhealthy food components and their consequences, restoring immune activity back to its normal state. It all lies in the choices we make.
Diet plays a large role in the health of a population, but individually, we must make an effort to improve our own personal health. Take more note of what you are eating; consume more vegetables, fruits and whole grains along with exercising regularly. Eating healthy does not have to be a difficult task. It only takes small changes to make a big difference.
Your intentions are good, but your story is full of broken "conventional wisdom". Modern research has shown us that the biggest problems with the "western diet" are not the things you are focussing on, but rather:
1. Total carb load (stop focussing on "added sugar"… that’s a decoy)
2. Oxidized oils (soy, canola, and corn oil in particular)
Total carb load makes us fat (and *fat* in the diet does *not*) and eventually diabetic.
Both carb load and oxidized oils give us inflammation, which leads to artery hardening (which saturated fat and red meat do NOT contribute) and heart disease.
Go back to what your grandparents were eating: a low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet. Life will be much better. Cook in lard or coconut oil. Eat a bacon double cheeseburger, minus the artery hardening bun. I changed my way of eating three years ago, and have had great results, and am never going back to the "western" diet.