March 25, 2013

Forget The Food Pyramid

Harmed by the Food Pyramid

The invention of the food pyramid by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was never based on solid science, and thus probably has created far more harm to the health of the US population by contributing to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The Food Pyramid was initially released in 1974 and revised periodically.  It evolved into MyPyramid in 2005 and then fell out favor altogether in 2011 when it was replaced by new federal guidelines call MyPlate.

The Original Food Pyramid

The Food Pyramid recommended that grains be the most consumed food followed by fruits and vegetables, and then dairy and meat, and finally by very sparing consumption of fats, oils, and sweets. The 1992 Food Pyramid advised that we consume 6 to 11 servings of grains a day.

Keep in the mind the Food Pyramid was developed by the USDA which has a financial interest in the consumption of grains. Its recommendations are likely to be politically and financially motivated. US farmers produce more grains than they can export and need other consumers for their products – us.

I suspect the base of the pyramid would look much different if the US Fish and Wildlife Service were asked to develop a national nutrition guide.

There are several problems with the Food Pyramid. It emphasizes too many grains and too little healthy fats and oils, and not enough protein. Below is the 1992 Food Pyramid.

food pyramidThe Paleo Diet

Perhaps the best way to understand how we should best eat is to take a look at what early humans ate.

Our Paleo ancestors, or stone-age brethren who walked this earth beginning 2.5 million years ago, were lean, fit, and healthy. They did not eat grains, nor did they consume dairy. They ate wild, lean animal protein and far fewer carbohydrates than we eat today. The carbohydrates they did eat were fruits and vegetables, and not the starchy carbohydrates that dominant the diet today.

Compared to the Paleo Diet, the Food Pyramid almost represents an upside down pyramid.

The chronic diseases we see today began with the agricultural revolution.

Agriculture started about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Now that’s a long time, but only represents a fraction of a second relative the age of the earth which is 4.5 billion years old (give or take a few years). Our bodies have not yet adapted well to this change in diet. Our gene pool is something like 99.8% the same as our stone-age relatives, but our diets have changed far more than that.

Problems with the Food Pyramid

Health problems related to the Food Pyramid stem from the spike in blood sugar and insulin that comes from eating the recommended number of grain servings. Grains are not particularly high in vitamins and minerals. Devoid of fiber, refined grains are high-glycemic causing elevations in blood sugar and insulin that contribute to chronic disease. It’s difficult to consume enough protein if following the Food Pyramid. Most of our body is protein. Protein is necessary to make most hormones and our neurotransmitters.

If you want to improve your health forget the Food Pyramid. Eat like a caveman or cave-woman.

See related articles.

Healthy Fats To Include In Your Diet

Anti Aging Nutrition Guidelines

The Paleo Diet




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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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