Standard American Diet and Vitamin Deficiency

Everyone wants to stay young and live forever. But is a long healthy life really the pot of golden at the end of the rainbow if you’re feeling unhealthy much of the time?

And why do so few of us feel good when we’re still thinking of ourselves as young and vital?

Two words: vitamin deficiency.

That’s the result of the Standard American Diet (SAD). 

Standard American Diet - Various Foods

Chemicals and Processing Drain Food of Vital Nutrients

Today’s middle-age population may live longer than previous generations, but unless they change their approach to nutrition and lifestyle, the life expectancy for tomorrow’s youth will likely be different.

Because of obesity and the deficiencies associated with the Standard American Diet, many medical institutions don’t expect children to live as long as their parents.

Our quality of food, coupled with our choice of foods, has rendered us depleted in the vitamins and minerals we require to function and thrive.

Most of the foods we eat contain barely half of the vitamins, minerals, and proteins they did fifty years ago. Today’s high-yield wheat crops offer only half of the protein they did a hundred years ago.

Processing methods remove nutrients from food. And the fact that it takes so long for food to reach us means that it has lost much of its nutrition by the time it reaches us.

Organic foods are free of dangerous GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), but they aren’t perfect because it can take decades for soils to fully recover from years and years of past abuse.

Standard American Diet - Chips

How Chemicals and Food Processing Methods Affect Our Food

  • The over-cultivated soil in which food is grown is depleted of chromium, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, calcium, and magnesium.
  • The super phosphate fertilizers that are used to replace manure mainly contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus (NPK), but lack many of the vital trace elements contained in good, old-fashioned manure.
  • Pesticides and herbicides contain chemicals that destroy soil microorganisms and affect plant nutrition.
  • Refining wheat into white flour will strip it of 50-88% of its cobalt, magnesium, zinc, chromium, and manganese.
  • Refining sugar cane into white sugar depletes it of 99% of its magnesium and 93% of its chromium.
  • Polishing rice removes 75% of its zinc and chromium.
  • Many additives, artificial coloring, preservatives, and stabilizers destroy nutrients and can also affect nutrient absorption.
  • Pollution will also deplete nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

Read more about the Health Risks of Pesticides in Food.

How to Get the Vitamins and Minerals You Need

First, forget what you think you know about adequate vitamin intake. Take a fresh approach to your health.

Your old approach isn’t taking into account what experts are finding out about the sorry state of our soil, the depleting state of processed foods, and our bodies’ agonizing struggles to overcome vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Everyone may eventually need extra vitamins and minerals to help compensate for deficiencies in the standard American diet. In times of special need – during pregnancy, periods of overwhelming stress, or illness – nutrients can be good therapy, so it’s important to keep up with current nutrition research.

For example, think about the recommended daily allowance (RDAs) for vitamins and minerals, which is the amount of each nutrient you need every day. These figures were calculated back in the 1940s when soils were healthier, and food processing and refinement was relatively rare.

Today, we need far more vitamins and minerals than the circa World War II guidelines given out by many health practitioners suggest.

Real food – free from unnecessary additives and processing – contains the nutrients we need for good health and longevity, so be wary of terms like ‘vitamin enriched’.

That means the food was stripped bare of its nutrient goodness during processing, and then something was added in an attempt to make up for the nutrient loss. That’s in the hope it gives the food some sort of bare minimum value.

By midlife, most Americans will have developed vitamin deficiency. But why wait until you’re sick before starting to give your body what it needs? Regular maintenance is always preferable to emergency management.

Standard American Diet - Frozen Food Aisle

Overcoming and Preventing Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency

Here are the top tips for preventing a vitamin and mineral deficiency.

  • If you cannot get fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, look for frozen over canned.
  • Avoid processed foods, fake foods, and junk foods.
  • Never buy anything that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil – i.e. never eat anything containing trans fats.
  • If you don’t know what a word on the label means, or cannot pronounce it, don’t eat it.
  • Don’t buy products with a long shelf life – the better they do on the shelf, the worse they are for your body.
  • Never eat food products that have been vitamin-enriched as they are usually completely devitalized during processing.
  • Avoid food that has been genetically modified or engineered.
  • A digestive aid or probiotic supplement can assist with nutrient absorption, helping to increase your nutrient intake.
  • A high quality, daily multivitamin and mineral supplement is essential.

Remember, when implementing any kind of dietary change, take it slow and pay attention to how you feel first.

Start feeling better than you ever have in your life by giving up the Standard American Diet. SUpplement your vitamin and mineral regimen with individualized specifics depending on factors of age, gender, weight, and any health conditions. 

Sources: 
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/dietary-guidelines
  • Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Snapshot_of_the_American_diet_Foods_out_of_balance
  • Yale University: https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/climate-change-and-the-american-diet/ 
  • National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21139124/

Julie C. Guider MyGoodGut

Medically reviewed by Julie Guider, M.D.

Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.