National Nutrition Month – Tackling the Myth of the Food Guide Pyramid

March is National Nutrition Month.  It is an event sponsored by the American Dietetic Association in an effort to raise awareness about nutrition.  The idea of a National Nutritional Month is a good one, however, the ADA still insists that low fat is a must.  Let’s have a look at the paradox of the food guide pyramid and why it is actually an unhealthy way to eat.

Above is the most recent food guide pyramid from the government.  They have changed the way it looks in order to try and keep up with recent research.  No longer do you see the grains at the “base” of the pyramid as you did in the old one.  Now you see it on the left and as the first “step” which still suggests it should be the largest part of your nutritional day.  From the governmental website you can find their suggestions regarding each category in the pyramid.  Let’s start with grains.

They recommend that half, only half, of your grain serving be whole.  The other half?  I guess it’s o.k. to get that from simple and refined grains.  They recommend eating breads and pastas every day to maintain health simply because they are low fat.  What they fail to inform the public is that these kinds of foods cause massive amounts of insulin to be released and over time this causes obesity and diabetes.  I can’t tell you how many patients I have that want to lose weight and all they eat are “low fat” carbohydrates.

Their information on vegetables and fruits is actually o.k.  It’s not that hard to say ‘eat more.’  The one exception to their fruit recommendations that I have is that they say to eat fruit any way you can get it including canned or dried.  Canned fruits are often in a sugary syrup to maintain flavor and this is extremely high in terms of glycemic load.  Sugar is sugar and just because it comes from a fruit doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  Dried fruit is acceptable once in a while, but drying a fruit raises its glycemic load.  The information is only a little misleading in this area of the pyramid.

If you look at the new pyramid you can see a small yellow sliver in there somewhere.  It is so small that it does not have a correlating category listed at the bottom.  This is supposed to be your entire serving of oils for the day?  This is a major problem.  The healthy oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and fish are unbelievably good for your health.  They promote heart health, reduce inflammation, provide a great source of healthy energy and increasing them reduces the carbohydrate intake one consumes. Primitive cultures have been using fats for thousands of years as a source of energy and nutrition.  These cultures, while few and far between now, are not the ones that have the epidemics of heart disease, diabetes and obesity that Western cultures do.  The difference is the amount of carbohydrate that Western cultures consume on a daily basis.  The problem with the current food guide is that all people see is that fat is bad.  It’s so bad it fact that it barely deserves a place in the pyramid.  That’s what the diagram suggests anyway.

The next section is also very misleading.  This section is entitled simply milk.  If milk is going to be consumed it should be raw.  Pasteurization destroys any health benefits outside of the calcium that one might get from milk.  They also recommend you drink skim milk which just makes the sugars in the milk more of a problem.  Milk is also highly allergenic.  There are many people that are allergic to casein, the protein in milk.  It is especially bad for children.  The protein in milk has been linked to increases in the number of kids with diabetes and autism. Asking America to drink more milk could be a worse idea.  If you’re going to consume milk, make sure it is raw and whole.  That is the only way to benefit from milk.  It should still be a small portion of what you have in a day.

The next section is meats and beans.  This section is also o.k. with one exception.  They still can’t get away from the the fact that they want you to go low fat.  They stress lean meats in this section.  While lean meats are good, don’t shy away from cuts of meat with a little more fat in them.  Go ahead and have that steak.  The benefits of the fats in the cut far outweigh any negative.  This steak only becomes problematic when you combine it with steak fries. Keep the carbohydrate count low and the fats and oils from your steak only help you.

The food guide pyramid is designed on flawed data and therefore is flawed itself.  All fats are not bad, as this pyramid suggests.  There are many fats that are actually very good for you, but you’d never know it looking at the schematic they have designed.  It places entirely too much emphasis on carbohydrates which are known to contribute to inflammation, diabetes and obesity.  To make this more appropriate the healthy fats must be emphasized more and carbohydrates much less.


Filed under Diet, Public Health

5 responses to “National Nutrition Month – Tackling the Myth of the Food Guide Pyramid

  1. jennifer barsing

    i, too have wondered about the food pyramid, my doctor sent me to a dietition to help me lose weight, she showed the food pyramid and said that this is what i should be eating, after 2 wks no weight loss, so i did my homework and made my own food pyramid, turned it upside down, started taking krill tabs. and lost just over 1 kilo in the 1st week, went to my dietition and then she brought out a food pyramid just like mine, i feel that she wasted my time and money and did not really listen to me, cheers jennifer.

  2. Alex Krohn

    Great article! It explains the concepts of the Paleolithic diet perfectly, minus the agreement with the beans being a part of the meat category. Spread the word, our healthcare system and economy needs it!

  3. Great article, although I disagree with your comment on milk. Considering how we are required to get about 1100 mg of calcium per day, milk, esp . skim milk (without the saturated fat), will go along way to help non-allergenic healthy people meet that requirement.

    • I agree that in the non-allergenic population, dairy can be a good source of calcium. However, in the chronically ill the removal of casein from the diet can be very helpful. In my practice I generally stay away from recommending dairy for my patients as I believe it is a slippery slope. However, if they are consuming it and it does not seem to be a problem, I don’t ask them to stop. Thanks for reading!

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