The Food Pyramid: What Should You Eat?!
Article written by Daniel Max, Holistic Health Counselor, Yoga Instructor, Shiatsu Practitioner, owner of Sense of Self
The Food Pyramid, a model created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has become an iconic illustration of what the USDA says is the element of a healthy diet. The Pyramid model has been taught in schools, appeared in the media and has been plastered on cereal boxes and food labels.
Tragically, the information conveyed in this pyramid hasn’t pointed the way to healthy eating. This symbol doesn’t give enough information to help us make informed choices about our diet and long-term health. It continues to recommend foods that aren’t essential to good health, and may even be detrimental in the quantities recommended.
Every five years, the US Departments of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services update their nutrition recommendations for citizens. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans continues to reflect the tense interplay of science and the powerful food industry. The panel that writes the guidelines must include nutrition experts who are leaders in pediatrics, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and public health. Unfortunately the selection of the panelists is always subject to intense lobbying from organizations such as the National Dairy Council, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, Soft Drink Association, American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and Wheat Foods Council. With panelists representing diverse industries, creating the guidelines has become more of a negotiation process to appease all sides, rather than keeping the focus on the public’s best interest.
Several of the new recommendations represent important steps in the right direction while others remain mired in the past.
Positive changes include the continuing development in the recognition of individual caloric needs and recommendations for overall smaller portions. There is a shift to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Furthermore the guidelines emphasize the importance of significantly reducing the consumption of foods with added sugars, solid fats, sodium and refined grains.
Vital changes that have yet to be made include the following:
* Grains: The guidelines lack instruction showing the difference between unrefined whole grains and their refined versions. This is a shame since refined starches (found in cereals, breads, pastas etc.‘) behave like sugar, having adverse metabolic effects and increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Pictures on the food pyramid of highly refined products such as white bread and pasta continue to represent examples of grains. Simply put, Special K is not a whole grain just as ketchup is not a tomato.
Recommendation: Keep experimenting with unrefined whole grains. While you may have been eating wheat products your whole life, have you ever tried wheat berries from which the flour is derived?
* Protein: The guidelines continue to lump together red meat, poultry, fish, and beans (including soy products) with little differentiation between each type. We are asked to judge these protein sources by their total fat content, making choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free. Due to the meat and dairy industries’ involvement in the guidelines, suggestions to lower the recommended amounts have not been approved.
Recommendation: Because of our bio-individuality, protein requirements vary dramatically from person to person. Many people feel lighter and clearer when they reduce animal products. If you notice that you feel better when eating animal protein, enjoy it in smaller portions together with an abundance of vegetables. Click Here to learn more about plant-based and animal protein.
* Fat: Since the 2005 guidelines there has been more differentiation between detrimental fats like trans fats and health-promoting fats. While this has been an improvement to our past fat phobic education, most of us still have no idea what oils we should be using.
Recommendation: Let ‘unrefined’ be your guideline. The unrefined label can easily be found on oils such as olive or sesame. Some brands of sunflower or canola can be found unrefined in health food stores. Saturated oils such as butter, ghee or coconut are always unrefined but should be used with care for cardiovascular health.
* Dairy: The recommendation to drink three glasses of low-fat milk or eat three servings of other dairy products per day to prevent osteoporosis is another step in the wrong direction. Millions of Americans are lactose intolerant, and even small amounts of milk or dairy products give them stomach aches, gas, or other problems. This recommendation ignores the lack of evidence for a link between consumption of dairy products and prevention of osteoporosis as well as ignoring the suspected association of dairy with the causes of more serious diseases.
Recommendation: Minimize your intake of milk and choose other dairy sources instead. Enjoy fermented products like yogurt and kefir and experiment with goat dairy products for better digestion. Choose raw dairy when available. Milk sensitivities often appear as digestive, respiratory or skin disorders. Try eliminating dairy from your diet and enjoy leafy greens, sesame, soy, flax, and seaweeds for their high calcium values. Due to the antibiotics and hormones used in the US dairy industry, choosing organic is highly recommended.
For more information Click Here
* Water: The USDA makes no mention of the importance of water.
Recommendation: With the body made up of 75% water, it is essential that we continuously replenish this source. Drinking more water helps all of the body’s systems to run smoothly, enabling our organs to comfortably perform their functions. When the body is too dry it contracts. Drinking water helps relieve symptoms such as body tension, headaches, or any other stress related disorder. Hydration also keeps the skin smooth and clear.
Always keep a bottle of water on hand.
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