Standard American Diet (S.A.D.)

Last year I started a series of posts comparing grain-free meals with meals from the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.).

To review:

The S.A.D. breakfast contained oatmeal, juice, fruit and milk. The grain-free breakfast was made up of eggs, veggies, avocado, and bacon. Click here for a full analysis.

The S.A.D. lunch was a serving of yogurt, one piece of fruit, and a sandwich made with whole wheat bread, lettuce, turkey, ham, and mustard. The grain-free alternative was a salmon salad with walnuts. Click here for a full analysis.

Finally, the S.A.D. dinner was a plate of pasta, a cup of milk, and a “healthy brownie” touted by a widely renowned Registered Dietician. Meanwhile, the grain-free dinner contained a burger topped with guacamole, a side of vegetables, and a large sweet potato. Click here for a full analysis.

Today, let’s conclude this comparison by adding up a whole day’s worth of nutrients from each eating style. Every meal was about 650 calories, providing about 2,000 calories in one day.

First up are the macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) and breakdown of each category. This includes sugar versus fiber for carbohydrate content and inflammatory versus anti-inflammatory fats for the fatty acid profile.

Total Carbs Fiber Net Carbs Protein Sat Fat Mono Fat Omega 3 Omega 6
Standard American Diet 337 27 310 63 8 8.5 525 16750
Grain-Free Diet 106 40 66 130 25 46 10500 16800

Immediately we see that the American Diet provides a massive carb load with very little fat to mitigate blood sugar spikes. Sadly enough, these numbers are exactly in line with recommendations the USDA and ADA has made for over 50 years! The American public has been told to get 65% of their calories from carbs, resulting in the 300+ grams of sugar we see here.

Also, the American Diet hardly provides 60 grams of protein. This could be a contributing factor to the major health decline seen in our aging population. Without sufficient protein muscle dies, bones lose density, energy levels drop, and overeating results from lack of satiation.

Finally, the Omega 3-to-Omega 6 ratio of the American diet is 1-to-30 while the Grain-Free Diet is 1-to-1.5. Consuming 30 times as much omega 6 as omega 3 creates an inflammatory and unstable environment in the body. Omega 6 is easily oxidized, leading to formation of hard plaque in the arteries.

Next is a comparison of the vitamins provided by each meal.

Vit A Vit C Vit D Vit E Vit K Vit B6 Vit B12 Folate
Standard American Diet 7330 160 50 5.5 39 2 3 373
Grain-Free Diet 71410 427 71 17.5 1207 34 15 1140

There is not one category where a grain-based diet provides anywhere near the amount of vitamins present in a diet built around vegetables, protein, and healthy fat. In fact, the grain-free diet has almost 10 times the vitamin content of a grain-based diet!

Finally, a totaling of the nutrients from each style of eating.

Calcium Iron Magnesium Potassium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium
Standard American Diet 1470 10 395 3775 10 1 5 127
Grain-Free Diet 600 25 505 6525 22 3 5 219

Once again, a grain-free diet provides more nutrients than a grain-based diet. However, in this category, the numbers are much more close.

Most notable is the fact that the Standard American Diet provides more calcium than a grain-free diet. The grain-based diet included a serving of dairy in every meal while the grain-free diet did not. While grains clearly do not provide any significant nutrition, raw dairy from grass-fed animals may be a safe and worthwhile inclusion.

After examining three meals built according to healthy American standards, and three alternative meals void of grains and dairy, we can begin to understand why our nations health worsens every year.

This analysis doesn’t take into consideration the lack of physical activity in the U.S. or the issue of man-made “health-foods” such as margarine, canola oil, or low-fat snacks. I would never suggest that the inclusion of a moderate amount of whole grains is dangerous, but basing an entire diet on such a low-nutrient food group is not wise.

The final takeaways are:

  1. Opt for vegetables instead of grains. Grains contain less nutrients and fiber, while providing more sugar and inflammatory fat, than vegetables.
  2. Do not fear proteins and fats found in nature. Fat and protein make up our entire body so, as long as they are from a natural source, they should make up the bulk of our diet.
  3. Look beyond recommendations made by USDA-backed organizations and professionals. In what other industry are producers allowed to dictate consumption?


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