Blame it on our love for tortilla chips, guac and margaritas. That could be one explanation for why American consumption of vegetable oil, avocados and limes has skyrocketed in the past 40 years, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA’s Economic Research Service took a look at changes in American diet trends from 1970 to 2014. The report uses food availability data to track consumption over the decades of grains, dairy, protein foods (meat, chicken, fish), fruits, vegetables, added fats and oil, and added sugar and sweeteners.
The overall findings won’t surprise you: Obesity rates have tripled for adults and more than tripled for adolescents and children since 1970, the report notes, and it’s not hard to see why. We’re still consuming “too many foods that are high in added fats and oil, added sugar and sweeteners, and grains.” At the same time, we still don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables — although we are doing a bit better.
But a closer look at individual foods in the report yields some surprising changes since the ’70s:
- Mango consumption jumped a whopping 3,200 percent (maybe all those smoothies?), while peaches, plums, oranges and grapefruit declined in popularity.
- Avocados shot up 1,342 percent — undoubtedly thanks to guacamole and the avocado’s reputation as a healthy fat.
- Maybe it’s the margaritas? Lime consumption is up 1,654 percent.
- We haven’t cut back on fats and oils, although the biggest increase — 87 percent — was in unsaturated vegetable fats and oils, such as canola and olive oil, considered healthier than saturated animal fats. Those kinds of fats, such as lard and butter, have dropped. Lard had the biggest decline at 65 percent; butter was down 8 percent.
- Canned fruit consumption took a hit in every category, from applesauce (down 48 percent) to apricots (down 90 percent), while frozen blueberries and raspberries are both way up.
- Broccoli and mushrooms saw the biggest jumps by 2014 (up 1,146 and 937 percent, respectively), followed by spinach and bell peppers. Unfortunately, kale wasn’t tracked.
- Americans are also eating more legumes. Peas and lentils (favorites in soups and vegetarian cooking) jumped a surprising 3,170 percent.
- As for protein, Americans are eating less red meat (including beef, pork and lamb) and more chicken and fish. We’re also eating more nuts and peanut butter — they jumped 51 percent.