Through last two decades much has been said about the relation between the almost unstoppable growing of nationwide obesity and fast food. Fast food is cheap, almost instantly available and filling, and yet full of fat, sugar and salts. Consequently, this altogether makes for a large amount of extra calories. However, to blame the so-called obesity epidemic on fast food alone is too simple and shallow. Many Americans struggle with it while not consuming fast food on a daily basis. Indeed, they do much of their cooking at home, where they can control the ingredients - but still find themselves struggling with weight problems. Moreover, many of these families are preparing food by the recipes that were used by past generations, which have not encountered the associated obesity problems. However, there are significant differences between today’s diets and lifestyle and ones of the past generations. In the past, cooking at home sustained the whole nation of workers healthy, but the same recipes are not suitable for modern times with lower food quality, growing fast food corporations and physically inactive way of life, when going to the gym or for a run is out of range of options.
Firstly, it is important to realize that the contents of today’s home-cooked meals may vary tremendously from the home food which was prepared by people even two generations prior to the current. Today, few people prepare entire meals utterly by themselves using fresh ingredients, which are widely available at decent prices on farmer’s markets, many of stores, supermarkets and even hypermarkets. Instead, they buy canned and semi-finished food, like frozen meat, vegetables or noodles, and combine them together to a have a dinner at home on a daily basis. These products indeed may taste very similar to foods made home with your own hands, but often is high on calories, containing large amounts of sugar and salt, which concurrently are not contained in large or abnormal amounts in fresh products healthy meals are made of . Semi-finished products may contain harmful chemicals and ingredients which a potential consumer would not be able to see mentioned on the packaging due to legislative holes in many countries, arranged government to help companies and corporations. So, the consumer will not be aware of the posing danger to their health.
A parent preparing meals at home for himself and the children who chooses canned vegetables over fresh food because of the price differences, may not be aware that the choice guarantees a higher sodium intake for the family. Large amounts of sodium on daily basis may negatively affect your health. Nevertheless, frozen food is not a next option here. If lower on sodium, frozen food is higher on calories. At first, the increase in calories may seem insignificant. For example, a bag of frozen French fries does not have considerably more calories than potatoes sliced and fried at home, but the incremental increase in calories exists in most of all frozen foods presented on the market as a consequence of production process and long expiration periods.
Moreover, the definition of home-cooking has changed over the last few generations. A home-cooked breakfast used to refer to an actual home-cooked breakfast, and cereal was considered a convenient breakfast food. “A typical breakfast was hot or cold cereal sweetened with raisins or fresh fruit, not a Pop-Tart, jelly doughnut or 500-calorie bagel with 200 calories of cream cheese” (Brody, 2011). But times have changed and cereal brands are produced in large amounts to satisfy the high demand of customers. Like with frozen food, modern production lessens the quality of cereal. Moreover, to cover that, more sugar is added, consequently making cereal higher on calories than before. Food eaten at home was healthier, and really made at home .
While prepared food tends to be high on calories and sodium, many experts believe it is the sugar what drives the obesity epidemic and makes it ongoing. Sugar and its alternate forms, notably high fructose corn syrup, play an interesting role in the body’s biochemistry. One expert, Dr. Robert Lustig even believes that sugar is similar to controlled drugs. According to him, “Cocaine and heroin are deadly because they are addictive and toxic - and so is sugar.” (Bosely, 2013) However, sugar plays a significant part in the diet of many Americans. And soda drinks are a significant part of this diet. They are high on sugar and can serve as a catalyst on a daily basis if consistently consumed over a long period.
In prior generations, people mainly have been drinking water. When people chose non-water beverages, the choices were juices, milk, and even alcoholic drinks that had some nutritional content. However, soda, which frequently accompanies home-cooked meals, is nutritionally empty, providing only sugar to the person who drinks it.
Even people who attempt to drastically lessen sugar in their diets and watch their calorie intake are eating differently than people in prior generations, largely due to changes in American agriculture. Putten more simply: American food is no longer grown like it was grown in the past. Fruits and vegetables are likely to be produced on large farms, with pesticides, and grown from genetically-modified seeds. As of this point in time, it is impossible to really know the safety of those food sources for the health of an individual. Likewise, meat is no longer produced in primarily free-range environments, but in factory farms, and the content of these stock animals’ food has shifted. For example, Argentinians continue to have a meat-based diet, but have not seen the same negative health impact that is linked to the American consumption of meat. However, in Argentina, cows are still grass-fed and allowed to roam. In America, cows are fed corn in crowded feedlots, which quickly increases their fat comparing to muscle ratio. The result is a more tender beef, but that tenderness is a result of cows suffering from the same type of obesity as most Americans; it is not the natural condition of cattle or beef. (Bosely, 2013).
In addition, when many people try to limit their sugar intake, they turn to sugar substitutes, with the belief that these low-calorie or no-calorie sweeteners will help them lose weight. However, the problem is that human beings are not adapted to eating these artificial sweeteners. “The only source of sweet for 99.9 percent of human existence has been glucose and fructose. Not surprisingly we developed a physiology where feeding behavior is largely controlled by the ebb and flow of blood levels of these sugars and their metabolites which reflect our energy status” (Spector, 2012). The use of artificial sweeteners actually increase hunger and calorie consumption, because the taste buds may perceive the same sweetness as with sugar, but the satiety signals that are triggered by sugar are not triggered by artificial sweeteners (Spector, 2012). Furthermore, sugar substitutes are generally sweeter than sugar. Therefore, when a person does eat a product with sugar, whether naturally occurring such as in fruit or a product with refined sugar, the product will not taste as sweet because of the dulling of the taste receptors. The result has been a gradual increase in sugar content in foods, to meet this rising drive for sugar.
While the above changes in food ingredients contribute greatly to the obesity epidemic, it is also important to look at the changes in behavior that have accompanied the changes in ingredients. “Children’s lives are different today than they were a generation ago. There is much less physical activity for many children. Stoked by often sensational media coverage, fear of crime, or of sexual predators, has led many parents to keep their children on a short leash” (Reynolds, 2013). The result is that many younger generations are too inactive to burn off the same number of calories that their parents could consume without experiencing weight problems. Moreover, the problem is self-perpetuating; less active children find it more difficult to be physically active and engage in sports, so that activity levels decline further as they age. By the time these children reach adulthood, being sedentary would become a way of life. Combine that sedentary lifestyle with jobs that rarely require physical exertion, and the calorie requirements that were once necessary to sustain manual laborers simply turn to fat on the modern sedentary American.
Obviously, eliminating or reducing fast food consumption is an important step to take in fighting obesity, but it is not the only step. Even foods prepared and consumed at home like canned food and frozen food can contribute to the obesity epidemic. The solution to the epidemic appears simple: return to the types of food and the activity level of prior generations, promote sports or even simple jogging, and provide explanatory work along that. It is constant and consistent inquiry and guidance on this problems that will do job. Nevertheless, such a simple solution proves to be far more complicated in execution: many of changes highlighted in my paper have long taken their place, but are not noticeable to most of the people. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Bosely, S. (2013, March 20). Sugar, not fat, exposed as deadly villain in obesity epidemic.
Retrieved September 20, 2013 from The Guardian website: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/20/sugar-deadly-obesity-epidemic
Brody, J. (2011, September 12). Attacking the obesity epidemic by first figuring out its cause.
Retrieved September 20, 2013 from The New York Times website: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/13/health/13brody.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Reynolds, R. (2013, February 9). Experts weigh causes of US obesity epidemic. Retrieved
September 20, 2013 from Aljazeera website: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/02/201328154830400503.html
Spector, P. (2012, May 17). Sweet nothings? Sugar substitutes and weight gain. Retrieved
September 20, 2013 from Huffington Post website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-spector-md/sugar-substitutes_b_1515004.html