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Do you ever wonder what happened to the Food Guide Pyramid?
The Food Guide Pyramid was created more than ten years ago by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Pyramid illustrated what the USDA said were the elements of a healthy diet. The Pyramid was taught in schools, appeared in the media and brochures, on cereal boxes and food labels. It seemed like the absolute final word on what we should really eat.
The Food Guide Pyramid is now like a fairytale. It did not point the way toward healthy eating. We are told now the Food Guide Pyramid was based on shaky scientific evidence. It still has not changed over the years to reflect major advances in our understanding of the connection between diet and good health.
Recently, the USDA retired the old Food Guide Pyramid and replaced it with MyPyramid, a new symbol and “interactive food guidance system. This revision is basically the old Pyramid turned on its side.
The good news about the new MyPyramid:
• It tears apart and buries the flawed Pyramid.
Bad news about the MyPyramid:
• The new MyPyramid does not give us enough information to help us make informed choices about our diet and long-term health.
• It continues to recommend foods that are not essential to good health.
• The food quantities recommended may even be detrimental to our overall health.
So…..what do we eat to become and stay healthy?
According to a new dietary guideline released early in January of 2005:
• We are to continue to concentrate on controlling weight;
• Fats were once considered bad. The new guidelines emphasize low intake of Trans fats and to limit our saturated fats. There is not an artificially low cap on fat intake. The latest advice recommends getting between 20% and 35% of daily calories from fats. The new guidelines also recognize the potential health benefits of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats;
• Complex carbohydrates was a term used in the past that has little biological meaning;
• The new guidelines advise Americans to limit sugar intake and stress the benefits of whole grains;
• The guidelines suggest eating half of our grains as refined starch, although refined starches behave like sugar, add empty calories, have adverse metabolic effects, and increase the risks of diabetes and heart disease.
• The guidelines lump together red meat, poultry, fish, beans and soy products and tell us to judge these protein sources by their total fat content. This means to make choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free. This advice ignores the evidence that these foods have different types of fats. It also leaves out evidence that replacing red meat with a combination of fish, poultry, beans, and nuts offers numerous health benefits.
So…..if we follow this new dietary guideline we still may not be eating “right,” according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The Harvard School of Public Health nutrition experts created the “Healthy Eating Pyramid.” It is based on the best available scientific evidence about the links between diet and health.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid is based on daily exercise and weight control. Evidence proves daily exercise and weight control influences your chances of staying healthy. They also stress what and how you eat and how your food affects you.
Some highlights of the Healthy Eating Pyramid are outlined below:
• Whole grain foods (at most meals).
• Plant oils: Good sources of unsaturated fats include olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and other vegetable oils and fatty fish such as salmon.
• Vegetables (in abundance) and Fruits (2 to 3 times per day).
• Fish, poultry, and eggs (0 to 2 times per day). Eggs which have been a long time noted as being “bad for you” because they contain fairly high levels of cholesterol aren’t as bad as once thought to be. An egg for breakfast is much healthier than a bagel made from refined flour.
• Nuts and Legumes (1 to 3 times) are excellent sources of protein and contain healthy fats.
• Dairy or Calcium Supplement (1 to 2 times) Dairy products have been American’s main source of calcium. Cheese has also been another popular choice for calcium needs. Try to stick with no-fat or low-fat products. If you don’t like dairy products, calcium supplements are the way to go.
• Red meat and butter (use sparingly): If you eat red meat every day, switch to fish or chicken several times a week to improve cholesterol levels. Switching from butter to olive oil will also improve cholesterol levels.
• White rice, white bread, potatoes, white pasta, soda, and sweets (use sparingly): This group of foods can cause fast and furious increases in blood sugar that can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic disorders.
• Multiple vitamins: Taking a daily multivitamin, multimineral supplement offers a nutritional backup. They do not replace healthy eating or make up for unhealthy eating. A standard, store-brand, RDA-level is fine. Look for one that meets the requirements of the U.S. Pharmacopeia, an organization that sets standards for drugs and supplements.
• Alcohol (in moderation): Many studies suggest that having an alcoholic drink a day lowers the risk of heart disease. For men: 1 to 2 drinks a day. For women: One drink a day.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid certainly summarizes the information I personally have been reading recently as the best dietary information available to us. It is not something set into stone because nutrition researchers will continue to turn up new information in the years ahead. The Healthy Eating Pyramid will change to reflect the new evidence.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid is not the only up-to-date guide for eating healthy. It does take advantage of more extensive research and offers a broader guide that is not based on a specific culture, such as the Asian, Latin, Mediterranean and vegetarian pyramids.
To sum it all up to the number one tip for eating for improving your health would be eating foods that have a lot of vitamins and minerals as well as foods that are not high in fat. Exercise moderately.
More Healthy Tips:
• Find the strong points and weak points in your current diet and improve in those areas where you are weak.
• Make small, slow changes.
• Keep track of your food intake by writing down what you eat and drink every day. Use this record to help you see where you need to improve.
• If you have medical problems talk it over with your doctor or a nutritionist before making any significant changes.
• Good nutrition does not come in a pill. Get your doctor’s recommendations on vitamins and mineral supplements. Your body will benefit the most from eating healthy foods.
• Eat a variety of foods, and learn to try new foods.
• Prepare your meat either by baking, grilling or broiling rather than frying. Take the skin off chicken before eating. Eat fish at least once a week.
• Cut back on extra fat like butter, margarine, sour cream and salad dressings.
• Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables with your meals and snacks.
• Drink no- or low-calorie beverages like water, unsweetened tea, and diet soda.
• Exercise moderately daily.
Balanced nutrition and regular exercise are good for your health if your weight never changes. Don’t be discouraged because you don’t lose weight after months of regular exercise. The regular exercise offers you a multitude of benefits toward keeping you healthy.