The USDA published its first nutrition guidelines in 1894 as a farmer’s bulletin. It recommended consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods in proportion and moderation while lowering levels of fat, sugar, and starch intake. (Wikipedia, 2015)
Food Guides in the US 1894 -1920’s
A few of the United States’ earliest food guides, left to right: W. O. Atwater’s Food: Nutritive Value and Cost (1894), Caroline Hunt’s Food For Young Children (1916), Helen Atwater and Caroline Hunt’s How to Select Foods (1917)
In 1894, people were mostly eating REAL FOOD – there were no fast food franchises, highly processed foods, energy bars, sugar-filled carbonated soft drinks, genetically modified foods, factory farmed animals pumped full of antibiotics and fed GMO grains.
In the late 1970’s, the USDA nutritional guidelines reflected the new “low fat revolution”, urging Americans to reduce their intake of saturated fats and cholesterol – that is, to eat fewer traditionally healthy foods like eggs, butter, meat, and full-fat dairy. We now know that advice was seriously misguided and has been driving some of the world’s leading health threats – including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. (Gunnars, 2014)
The food industry responded to the new low fat guidelines by creating a slew of low fat “health foods”. Unfortunately, removing the fat from food also takes away its taste. So the industry replaced the missing fat with sugar. If you eat processed or fast foods and/or drink sodas or juice drinks, you’re consuming massive amounts of sugar in various forms.
Dr Stephan Guyenet, a neurobiologist and obesity researcher, says, “In the year 1822 we ate the equivalent of a 12 ounce can of soda every 5 days. Today, we’re eating the equivalent of a 12 ounce can of soda every 7 hours.”
“On average, Americans are eating about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, or 355 calories. This amounts to 70 pounds (32 kg) per year. Keep in mind that these are averages. Young males are eating about a 100 pounds of sugar per year… and many individuals are eating much, much more. (Gunnars, 2014)
Most processed foods, including ones calling themselves “health foods” contain sugar – often lots of it under various names. Among the ones to look for are:
- Barley malt
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Cane juice
- Cane juice crystals
- Cane juice solids
- Carob syrup
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Date sugar
- Dehydrated cane juice
- Dehydrated fruit juice
- Diatastic malt
- Ethyl maltol
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Fruit juice crystals
- Glucose solids
- Golden syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Refiner’s syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Yellow sugar
– Colquhoun& ten Bosch, undated
This useful infographic from Dr Robert Mercola’s Newsletter lists the amount of sugar per 100 grams found in some common foods. As Mercola points out, sugars now constitute the majority of calories in most people’s diet. (Mercola, 8/31/2015)
See my post on Katie Couric’s film ‘Fed Up’ for more information on the link between sugar consumption and the growing obesity epidemic.
I highly recommend watching the film. Here’s Fed Up‘s home page.
Note added on 9/1/2015:
A comment from Na’ama Yehuda (see Comments, below) reminded me to stress that not all sugars are equal. The sugars that occur naturally in fruit and dried fruit are a lot healthier for us than any form of refined sugar. As Na’ama says, concentrate on eating REAL FOOD, avoid processed junk foods filled with refined sugars and other unhealthy ingredients, and limit your total consumption of sugar.
Colquhoun, J. & ten Bosch, L. (undated). HOW TO SPOT SUGAR ON FOOD LABELS. Hungry For Change: Your health is in your hands. See: http://www.hungryforchange.tv/article/how-to-spot-sugar-on-food-labels
FedUp.com. (2014). Fed Up – the movie. See: http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home
Gunnars, C. (2014). Added Sugar is The Single Worst Ingredient in The Diet. Period. See: http://authoritynutrition.com/sugar-the-worst-ingredient-in-the-diet/
Guyenet, S. (2012). By 2606, the US Diet will be 100 Percent Sugar. Whole Health Source – Nutrition and Health Science. See: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2012/02/by-2606-us-diet-will-be-100-percent.html
Hardin, J.R. (2014). ‘Fed Up’. AllergiesAndYourGut.com. See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2014/06/01/fed/
Mercola, R. (8/31/2015). Sugar in Foods (A Sweet Trap) Infographic. See: http://www.mercola.com/infographics/sugar-foods.htm?e_cid=20150831Z1_DNL_SECON&utm_source=content&utm_medium=email&utm_content=secon&utm_campaign=20150831Z1&et_cid=DM84398&et_rid=1097998420
Wikipedia. (2015). History of USDA nutrition guides. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_USDA_nutrition_guides
© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.