The Healthy Eating pyramid

In 2005 the U.S. Government retired the Food Pyramid for the current MyPyramid. This pyramid contains no words and is only a graphic representation of what the guidelines might be with each color representing different food groups.

In response to MyPyramid faculty members at the Harvard School of Public Health designed the Healthy Eating Pyramid. It is similar in shape to the US MyPyramid but also takes into account the wealth of research into nutrition that has been published in the past 10 years.

When the MyPyramid program was built there were many people who contributed to the final product including scientists, nutrition experts, staff, lobbyists. In theory the pyramid should reflect the current scientific research and nutritional understanding of how our bodies work but the results were corrupted by others who had an agenda to be answered when the results were finally published.

The food industry had a vested interest in the content of the food pyramid since even minor changes trickle down to federal programs that are dependent upon the information such as school lunch programs and how Americans buy their foods. The new MyPyramid was released in early 2005. Because the new guidelines didn’t utilize fully all of the most current research the Harvard School of Public Health stepped in. This food pyramid sits on a foundation of daily exercise and weight control because these two related elements strongly influences your success at becoming and staying healthy.

The healthy eating pyramid relies on whole grain foods to support your need for carbohydrates. Whole grains are the best source of carbs since they deliver energy rich starch and fiber. The body doesn’t digest the whole grains as quickly as they process on white flour which will keep your hunger down and your blood sugar stable.

Surprisingly the healthy eating pyramid includes oils and fats near the base of the pyramid but not all fats and oils – just the plant based ones. Healthy fats will actually improve your cholesterol levels and protect the heart from sudden and potentially deadly rhythm problems. Not all fats are created equal though. Good sources of unsaturated healthy fats include olive oil, peanuts, raw nuts, avocados and fatty fish like salmon.

The healthy eating pyramid stresses the need for an abundant amount of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit per day. Fish, poultry and eggs are next on the list. These are important sources of protein. Eggs used to be panned because they were believed to elevate cholesterol but recent studies show that an egg for breakfast is much better than a donut fried in oil or bagel with refined flour and cream cheese.

The healthy eating pyramid recommends 1-3 servings of nuts and legumes for protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This includes black beans, navy beans, garbanzos, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios. Dairy products are recommended for only 1-2 servings per day. Although they have traditionally been a main source of calcium 2 cups of whole milk have as much saturated fat as 4 strips of cooked bacon. If you like dairy try to stick with the no-fat or low-fat varieties.

The healthy eating pyramid recommends that people eat red meat and butter sparingly if at all. They contain a lot of saturated fat. White flour products and white rice have been all-American staples for years. Unfortunately they also cause a big jump in your blood sugar, can lead to weight gain, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

Interestingly the Healthy Eating Pyramid also includes a multivitamin supplement as a nutritional back up when you aren’t able to completely meet the daily needs of your body through the foods that you eat. And since you aren’t sure which days that may be the recommendation is to take a vitamin daily.

RESOURCES

harvard School of Public health: Food Pyramids and Plates
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/pyramid-full-story/

harvard School of Public health: Healthy Eating Pyramid and healthy Eating Plate
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/pyramid-questions/
KidsHealth: Food Guide Pyramid Becomes a Plate
http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/food/pyramid.html

MayoClinic: Pyramid or Plate
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-diet/art-20044905

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