The Problem with The Average American Diet
In this very second, approximately 350 slices of pizza are being consumed across the nation totaling 100 acres of pizza being eaten each day making it a $30 billion per year industry. Cheese has been found to be 70% fat, yet that has not stopped it from being a highly popular dish. The infamous Big Macs from McDonalds are sold each second for a total of $2304 at the rate of their demand. Consequently, Americans also spend $60 billion annually in weight loss programs. When the dietary components of the average American consist of 42% dairy and animal products, 51% refined and processed foods, and only 7% fruits and veggies, it shouldn’t be too surprising to find that our nation is being plagued with obesity and diseases such as heart attacks and diabetes at unprecedented rates. The invention of fast food has increased our convenience as well as our waistline. Furthermore, it can be noted that the biggest problem with this diet is specifically the fact that animal products are being processed and consumed in ways that is putting the health of Americans at risk.
Nearly 15,000 years ago humans began hunting and gathering. Our eyes evolved to have the ability to see the bright colors of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables from many feet away while the meat that was hunted provided our ancestors with the protein that they needed to survive and make offspring. Due to the fact that meat has done so and it is synonymous with the word protein, many are led to the conclusion that vegan or vegetarian diets are not healthy; thus filling up their plates with steaks, fried chicken, and extra cheese pizza with processed pepperoni on top. However, besides providing people with protein, meat also comes packed with cholesterols and saturated fats that can raise your blood pressure and increase your chance of heart attack. Omnivores have a startling 50% chance of developing heart disease while lacto-ovo vegetarians are at 15% and vegans are at a mere 6%. Eating the flesh of cows is not the only health offense here; the trouble with drinking the milk of these mammals should also be noted. There is no other species on the planet that takes the milk from another animal and drinks it past their nurturing period, but we humans cruelly contribute to the slaughtering of more than 245,000 dairy cows per year only for the sake of our own selfish “needs.” We grow up believing that dairy milk is packed with calcium that will provide us with strong healthy bones due to the fact that the dairy industry is loaded with money and can spend millions on advertising and biased research that will lead us to believe so. Ironically, countries with the highest dairy consumption are also the ones with the highest rates of osteoporosis.
In a world where corrupted industries are in control, it is crucial to become a conscious critical consumer who is aware of how the food we eat affects not only ourselves but the environment around us. Our addiction with animal products requires the raising of animals in ways that use unsustainable amounts of land, food, energy, and water. According to the Worldwatch Institute, over 51% of global greenhouse-gas emissions are a result of animal agriculture. As cows are being mainly conventionally fed GMO corn that is not natural to them, they release methane gas which further contributes to the climate change that is being experienced in this century. The land that is being used to farm these commercial animals in the first place is vastly inefficient. It takes up to 10 pounds of grains just to produce to produce 1 pound of meat, and the United States is using 56 million acres of land to grow feed for animals while only 4 million acres of land are used to grow feed for humans as reported by the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification. Not only does it take vast amounts of land to sustain the average American diet, but it also uses insane amounts of the most crucial element on our planet: water. A single dairy cow needs to hydrate itself with 50 gallons of water per day, and twice that on a particularly hot day. More than 244 gallons of water are used to produce 1 pound of beef and it is well known that hamburgers are prevalent among our nation. The statistics and reports from environmentally conscious agencies, in regards to animal agriculture, point to the direction of being in disfavor to raising farm animals as their research outlines the impact that a diet consisting of meat and dairy has on our environment.
With our cynical human nature, it can be easy to forget the impact that animal agriculture has on the animals themselves. Animal cruelty laws are strictly enforced in the defense of household pets, yet they do not seem to apply to the flesh that was slaughtered in order to end up in our digestive system. Why is it that mainly household animals have the privilege to live a long healthy life while cows and chickens are destined to live a life full of misery and abuse in a slaughterhouse? Every year, over 56 billion farmed animals are senselessly killed so that people’s taste buds can satisfied. Prior to having their lives flashed before their eyes, farmed animals are subjected to the cruelest living conditions. The factory farming industry does its best to maximize output while minimizing costs. In order to do so, animals are constrained of space to the point where they can’t even turn around or lie down. To make matters worse, antibiotics are used to make the animals grow abnormally large and keep them alive in unsanitary conditions. This use of antibiotics has also been known to lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can threaten human health. Essentially, factory farms have egg-laying hens clustered in small cages, chickens and pigs in jam-packed sheds, and cows in crowded filthy lots. Female cows are further victims of cruelty as they are born into a tragedy in which they are artificially inseminated and genetically manipulated to produce 4.5 times as much milk than they naturally would. Calves are taken from their mothers 1 to 3 days after their birth with females being sentenced to the same fate as their mothers and male calves becoming disregarded as worthless by the dairy industry to become veal.
When the facts and the solid truth behind this particular problem- the problem with the average American diet-is brought into light, the solution becomes quite obvious: Americans need to simply stop selfishly consuming flesh foods that hurt themselves and the whole ecosystem. Despite how sensitive of a topic diet can be the truth must outweigh this. Most of our population is sadly addicted to the unhealthy foods in their diet; for instance, when people make the experimental switch to a vegan diet a majority of them report missing cheese above everything else. This makes sense since cheese contains dairy proteins, called casomorphins, that act as mild opiates attaching to the same brain receptors as heroin and other narcotics inducing a tiny hit of dopamine with every bite. However, like any addiction, it can be very difficult to overcome but it is not impossible. Social support from our culture can help. Over the years, in this information era, more people have been switching to a vegan diet. No longer do we have vegan markets as a scarcity within cities, but we now have entire markets, food brands, and restaurants that promote vegan food in their business: Whole Foods, Daiya, Earth Balance, are just a few examples. There is hope that our external world is adapting and a decision to change among individuals must come from within. Switching to a vegan diet has become known to reverse diabetes symptoms and help heal other health diseases. Currently, vegans are the ones with the lowest BMIs out of every other diet. Without a doubt, deciding to be part of a diet that is plant-based will help benefit not only your own health, but also the state of the environment, and it will save the lives of innocent farm animals. One person can make a difference.