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The Changing Face of the Standard American Diet

The Changing Face of the Standard American Diet

by Aaron White BA (Biochemistry), BS (Pharmacy), MA (Biology)

Photograph of a straw cornucopia with a plethora of fruits, vegetables and gourd

The food we eat now is different from what we ate in the past. In the eighteenth century meat might be elk, beaver tail, chicken, buffalo or squirrel, available locally. Other provisions such as flour, dried beans, coffee, and sugar were readily available.

Cooking was by simple methods, such as Dutch ovens, frying pans, boiling pots, and roasting spits. As housing and transportation improved, a larger variety of food could be prepared. Then large changes occurred.

Railroads Impact the Way Americans Eat

After the American Civil War in the nineteenth century, the entire country was crisscrossed with a network of railroads. This revolutionized the movement of passengers and goods. The railroads and the telegraph unified the country.

Sketch of a blue radio broadcast tower

Later, radio and television further unified us. In the nineteenth century we relied on the horse and wagon for goods and the stagecoach for people. The railroads could move more passengers and goods farther, faster, and cheaper.

For centuries people stored perishables, such as butter and milk in cellars, in outdoor window boxes, or even under water in lakes or streams. Ice houses stored ice that was sold in blocks for use in ice boxes that preserved perishables.

Mechanical Refrigeration Dramatically Alters the Standard American Diet

At best, storage of perishables was limited in quantity and time. Then in the late nineteenth century mechanical refrigeration was developed. This permitted the chilling of interior spaces. Mechanical refrigeration could be used to chill railroad cars, and later containers and tractor trailers. The railroads already shipped all kinds of livestock to the meat packing plants located in or near Chicago.

The meat packers mechanically chilled the meat, and then moved it to markets all over the country in refrigerated railroad cars. This permitted large quantities for long times to be safely transported and stored. Suddenly meat became available to all in large quantities. Families soon replaced their ice boxes with refrigerators/freezers. This revolutionized American eating habits. These two developments, the railroads and mechanical refrigeration, gave rise to the Standard American Diet (SAD) as we know it today.

The Rise of Organic Foods

Concern about herbicide and pesticide residues on food gave rise to organic foods in the twentieth century. Organic foods are grown without pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Organic foods are now a substantial proportion of foods sold.

Most people know about the sources of calories; proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. In the 1930s we learned about vitamins and minerals. Few are now aware of the importance of phytochemicals, or micronutrients in plants as well as antioxidants. It is estimated that thousands of micronutrients exist, but only about 150 have been identified, and no more than about 12-15 have been studied in detail. Their significance has been known only recently.

The Importance of Phytochemicals, Micronutrients and Antioxidants

Lack of general awareness of phytochemicals, micronutrients and antioxidants is part of the reason that we, as a society, are fat and sick. For most of us, our diets are deficient in phytochemicals and antioxidants. Two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight; half are so overweight as to be considered obese.

The SAD (Standard American Diet) as we know it today emerged as a result of building the railroads and the development of mechanical refrigeration. The Standard American Diet is making us fat and sick.

A Plant-based Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is a plant-based, whole food, low fat diet. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is heavy with animal protein, high in fat (35-40% of calories) and lacking in phytochemicals, micronutrients and antioxidants. Drawing of a green ribbon with the words 100% natural organic That is why so many are fat and sick. Lack of phytochemicals and antioxidants stimulates our hunger, which we satisfy with empty calories lacking in these important micronutrients.

Photograph of Aaron White BA, BS, MA

Aaron White BA, BS, MA, is a guest blogger* on and is passionate about informing people about the dangers of the Standard American Diet and the many benefits of the healthier diet of plant-based whole foods.

*opinions expressed in this blog/article are the opinions of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, Cherubino Health Center or any of its affiliates. (Copyright 2015 Aaron White) Photograph (Damnianos Photography)

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