The #1 Worst Diet For Americans, Says Science

Helena V Berbie

Americans don’t always meet the standard dietary recommendations. In fact, the Journal of Nutrition found that the majority of adults in the US struggle to eat enough vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in their diet on any given day. Given that it’s so easy to find processed and fast foods that are high in added sugar, sodium, and trans fats, that it’s no wonder Americans are struggling to meet their daily nutrient needs. That’s why it probably won’t surprise you to learn that according to many different research studies, the #1 worst diet for Americans is what is known as the Standard American Diet. 

The Standard American Diet, also known as the SAD diet, is a common dietary pattern that has been known to continually lead to serious health issues for Americans. Here’s how the SAD diet can poorly affect your health, and for more healthy eating tips, make sure to check out our list of the 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.

bowl of candy

Some of the leading characteristics of the Standard American Diet are foods that contain added sugars, trans fat, and high levels of sodium, as well as ultra-processed foods. With the SAD diet, you’ll still get your macronutrients of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, but the quality of these foods will be lower.

For example, many of the carbohydrates in the SAD diet come from added sugar, and research shows that Americans are eating far more added sugar in a day than the recommended amount. The American Heart Association suggests limiting your added sugar intake to six teaspoons for women and nine for men, but the average intake of added sugar for Americans is about 17 teaspoons per day.

When it comes to fat, Americans tend to get too much of their calories from saturated and trans fats, which can be harmful to cardiovascular health if consumed in large quantities.

According to The Institute of Medicine, some of the most popular foods in the SAD diet include pizza, processed meats (like sausage and bacon), sugar-sweetened beverages, processed desserts high in sugar or dairy, and burgers.

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wendys burger

Many Americans are struggling with their health, and a lot of it can be traced back to diet. According to the CDC, 6 in 10 Americans live with chronic disease, and 4 in 10 U.S. adults live with more than one chronic illness.

The CDC also states that the risk of these chronic illnesses can increase from a number of things like excessive alcohol use, lack of exercise, and poor diet.

unhealthy cereal

According to a 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a diet that is high in added sugar can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and CVD mortality.

Another study found that in adolescents, large amounts of added sugar were associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that include high blood pressure, increased body fat, and high blood sugar.

Here’s One Major Side Effect of Eating Too Much Added Sugar, Says New Study.


Trans fats can either be industrial, which means they come from hydrogenated oils in a lab, or ruminant, which is a natural process that comes from the fatty acids found in certain animal products.

Common foods that contain trans fats are margarine, processed baked goods like cake, donuts, and cookies, and certain frozen foods like frozen pizza, all of which can be found in the Standard American Diet.

In 2015, The British Medical Journal concluded that high levels of trans fats were associated with coronary heart disease, and The Journal of Food Science and Technology found that the consumption of trans fats can increase your risk of diabetes and obesity.

Grilled sausage and hot dogs

The Standard American Diet can lead to many health issues for Americans, and it’s largely due to the high amounts of added sugar, trans fats, and processed foods.

If you’re curious about diets from other parts of the world that have been proven to lower the risk of chronic disease and lead to a longer life, you can try something like the Mediterranean diet or the Blue Zone diet.

For more eating tips, read these next:

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