The most prevalent cause of poor health is a poor diet. The average American diet contains an overwhelming amount of sugar. Added sugar and other added ingredients cause obesity which can then lead to numerous other health issues. The consumption of large amounts of added sugar and other modified or engineered foods is common among citizens with low income. In this paper I will outline the connection between poverty and the surpassing amount of health issues faced. It will also be stated how the American diet contains ingredients causing our health decline.
“Unhealthy diet contributes to approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the U.S., due to nutrition- and obesity-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.” (“Why Good Nutrition”, 2018). As the modern American family sits down to eat, the familiar crinkle of a paper bag and some finely folded paper wrappers saturates the air. Underneath the thin, oil stained paper is a manufactured imitation of food. It is a wonder why someone may choose this over the abundant nutrition that Mother Nature can provide. The answer to that is simple: convenience. The amount of effort and time it takes to not only cook a meal but prepare and clean up after is far more than what it takes to sit in the seat of your car, order food, hand them a plastic card, eat, and throw out the wrappers. The allure of the dollar menu, cheap packaged microwave snacks, and low priced pre made frozen food make them an even easier choice over the home cooked option. This need for unnatural foods seems to plague one group in particular, those who have lower income. With such a large lack in nutritional value in their diet, low incomes Americans are facing a larger amount of health issues
As more health issues arise in America, the more research is aimed at what we put into our bodies. We continuously learn how food has changed. Movies, articles, and news reports are sharing the negative effects of genetically modified and chemically engineered foods on our health. No longer does a family come home and sit around a dinner table to a fresh cooked meal, “Americans consume 31% more packaged food than fresh food.”(“11 Facts “, n.d.). Convenient meals lack basic nutrition and contain sugars that will be stored away as fat cells. As evident in observing our own diet and the diet of those around us, it is not uncommon to observe that a large portion of food that is eaten does not contain naturally occurring ingredients nor is it made fresh. As a result of an influx in convenient foods “the typical American diet is too high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars, and does not have enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium, and fiber.” (“Why Good Nutrition”, 2018). One of the largest problems facing Americans is the amount of sugar we consume on a consistent basis. Sugar and sweeteners are added to many processed and preserved foods on top of natural occurring sugars. On top of this we have seen an increased prevalence in the addition of sweet treats to our routine meals. It is because of this that “the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which amounts to an extra 350 calories.” (“Added Sugar “, 2017). Something as simple as grabbing something quick before leaving the house in the morning can add significantly to the sugar overload as “many common breakfast foods such as ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, cereal bars, instant oatmeal with added flavoring, and pastries can contain high amounts of added sugars.” (“Added Sugar “, 2017). As the day goes on, fast paced, most adults are allotted a small amount of time for lunch during the work day that makes running through a drive thru and grabbing a quick bite even more appealing. Fast food has become such a normalized part of our culture and life that “at least 1 in 4 people eat some type of fast food every day” (“11Facts”, n.d.), which leads to “Americans spending 10% of their disposable income on fast food every year.” (“11 Facts”, n.d.). While fast food and processed prepackaged snacks is becoming a staple to the American diet, leaving us over sugared and lacking basic nutrition needed to run the body properly, there is also controversy surrounding the items we purchase from the produce section. According to dosomething.org, a campaign that promotes healthy eating, “the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s tests have found widespread pesticide contamination on popular fruits and vegetables, also known as the ‘dirty dozen.'”(“11 Facts”, n.d.). There is also extensive dialogue about genetically modified foods which can include meats, fruits, and vegetables. More research is being done and finding that the altered foods can negatively impact our bodies. The American diet has taken a significant nose dive in these past years. Cultures, a lack of time, food addiction, and convenience have all played roles in the decline of a well-rounded diet. Consequently, we have also seen a decline in the health of the American people.
“Obesity” is the new buzz word in the health community. As the rates of obesity rise, so does a myriad of related health problems. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “in the last 30 years, obesity rates have doubled in adults, tripled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents.” (“Why Good Nutrition”, 2018). There are many illnesses linked to having an excessive amount of body fat such as: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. The Center for Science in the Public Interest also lists “dietary risks” as the top risk factor, in that it is a risk factor in 19.1% deaths, 529,999 deaths in the year 2016. The negative effects of a nutrient deficient diet on the human body are boundless. Besides the obvious physical ailments that obesity and poor diet can cause, diet has also been found to be a key player in mental health. Eve Selhub MD claims that “studies have compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to a typical “Western” diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet.” (Selhub, 2018). This is because” these traditional diets tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood, and to contain only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy. They are also void of processed and refined foods and sugars, which are staples of the “Western” dietary pattern.” (Selhub, 2018). A balanced and nutrient dense diet will help regulate the production of hormones in the body that retain homeostasis. Another journal states that “when we take a close look at the diet of depressed people, an interesting observation is that their nutrition is far from adequate. They make poor food choices and selecting foods that might actually contribute to depression.” (Sathyanarayana, 2008). It is apparent that one needs all the necessary nutrients in order for everything to work properly. The overconsumption of food, especially foods that negatively impact our bodies, is taking its toll and manifesting itself as a plethora of health problems and a low quality of life. Think of the body as a factory. A factory can only be produce efficiently when it is supplied with all the materials it needs. If a factory has a minimal amount of certain supplies and even an excess of one, it cannot work properly or efficiently. Our bodies need nutrients in order to work efficiently and effectively. When one area of the body is lacking, it creates a domino effect and knocks down other parts. We must give our body the proper fuel if we are to expect it to heal and maintain itself.
We are consistently bombarded with the fact that an overwhelming amount of the U. S. population is considered low income and are in need of food assistance. In the same sentence we are told that the U.S. has a significantly rising obesity problem. Many would be shocked to find that the population indicated suffers from both. “Nearly 45% of children living in poverty are overweight or obese compared with 22% of children living in households with incomes four times the poverty level” (HHS Office, & Council on Sports, 2017), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is due to the fact that while the poverty stricken families are given food assistance, the families still need to budget in order to make the “food stamps” last, making higher priced healthy options impractical. “People who are dependent on state benefits have the least varied diet and are least concerned about healthy eating, maybe because they can’t afford to be.” (NICHOLSON-LORD, D., 2011) concluded David Nicholson Lord. To someone living below the poverty line, $20.00 is going to go a lot further with the dollar menu rather than the produce section. Other reasons that cause low income citizens to have such a poor diet are their lack of resources. As summarized in the article Why Low-Income and Food-Insecure People are Vulnerable to Poor Nutrition and Obesity on frac.org, households that lack money lack resources likes cars to commute back and forth to the grocery store. It is also found that poor neighborhoods are more likely to have convenience stores, such as gas stations, and fast food restaurants surrounding them rather than a full market. These places contain the foods discussed previously that are comprised of excess sugars and processed junk. The article also reiterates that even when the low income families have produce available to them that is of poor quality. These people also tend to overeat when food is available which creates an inconsistency in food intake. This irregularity can cause irregularities within the body which will begin to greatly impact health. Overall, it is families who have less money to access healthier food options and even a lack in education that causes citizens who are below the poverty line to become plagued with the residual effects of a nutrient deficient diet.
Overall, people of low income households are the ones who are plagued by health issues due to a number of things, but at the center of these issues are eating habits. It is hard to find anything that is convenient, cheap, and can feed a multitude of people that has any nutritional value. This is why it is America’s citizens who fall below the poverty line also fall behind in health. As we move forward in this country with technological developments and continuous research, it is hopeful that education on the overwhelming importance of eating habits will spread. Once educated, citizens may make an informed choice about what they consume. If healthy choices are made, then producers will begin to change what they offer in order to cater to the majority. If we begin education then change will follow.