Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pyramid or all sucks if it comes from the US Government

Why people look to the government for advice on nutrition is beyond me- like they are the end-all and be-all of the "right" information. Since I started the health coaching classes a few weeks ago, I have been immersed in holistic experts' knowledge and opinions on the state of our health as a nation. As you can imagine, it does not look good. People are eating cheap highly processed foods that have been subsidized and pushed on us as "healthy" by our government.
"In America, and therefore in the world, we have domination of nutrition by the USDA. They are the people who create the food pyramid, and the USDA has two main responsibilities. #1 is to ensure the success of the food producers of America. Fruit, vegetables, milk, meat, corn, packaged goods. Their job is to ensure their success, business profit, get subsidies for them, corporate grants, and promote the farm bill. The #2 responsibility is to protect the American consumer, make sure they are eating well, that they have a healthy diet. Which of those priorities is more getting done?" 
"In 1991, Dr. Neil Barnard, head of Physicians Committee for responsible medicine, successfully sued the USDA showing that 6 of 11 board members had financial ties to the meat, dairy, and egg industries, and that the recommendations were influenced by their affiliations. It’s not often that an individual can successfully sue the American Government and win. He showed that through secret meetings and secret documentation the priority of those pyramids was to continue to promote food products that were not necessarily in the interest of the American public. Since that time, in a way it has gotten worse. Political appointees with backgrounds in the Agra-food industry continue to use their positions at the USDA and the FDA to advance their industry interests. In case of the USDA it is often at the expense of the small farmers, consumers, and the environment. So in our opinion, the food pyramid has less to do with sound nutritional advice and more to do with appeasing food producers. For example, you will find that they add foods in rather than take them away. Like they will say eat more lean meat. But you will never hear them say avoid red meat. It would just never pass in congress. The senator from Texas who was like “over my dead body”. It’s a political document, but the world sees this as scientific document, and because it is a scientific document in America, you can go all over the world and see this. But government has a hard enough time doing government. I don’t think government should be involved in science. But because it is we have a problem." from Joshua Rosenthal's lecture on the USDA Food Pyramid and My Plate.
1991 USDA Pyramid
 The first food pyramid (above) was issued right in the middle of the fat free craze that was propagated by bad science and politicians. I actually remember looking at this when I was younger (I was 9 when it was issued) and thinking, how the hell am I going to eat 11 servings of bread in one day? I am sure that many people did try to eat off of this guide, and as a result we have a nation of obese and severely sick people. The truth is when you cut fat out of your diet you add in more carbs by default.

There are many problems with this food pyramid. There is no distinction between bad carbs, good carbs, bad fats, and good fats. Everything is lumped together. If I know there are good and bad oils, and you know there are good and bad oils, what are the chances that the USDA knows there are good and bad oils?

So in the USDA's eyes, eating a loaf of white bread and a bowl of brown rice are the same thing. Metabolically, they are quite different. Also, eating red meat and fish are the same thing. We know now that eating fish is far superior to eating red meat in terms of the type of fats found in either. Another thing that is troublesome is nuts and beans are in the protein group which are given the same value as red meat and cheese. Nuts, beans, and legumes are very healthy sources of good fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. To lump them in with red meat is just plain wrong.
2005 Food Pyramid
This newer edition of the pyramid is even more confusing and misleading than the first. Lets look at it left to right-

  • The ambiguous man is conveying the necessity to be more active. I would say that is a positive addition. 
  • SO it looks like grains and dairy are the same size now (I guess we know who has the most lobbying power). By the way Triscuits are not a necessity, nor are they a healthy option.
  • It looks like fruits and vegetables combined make up the largest portion of the pyramid- that's an improvement. 
  • Fats, the thin yellow line, are even smaller than before, which the test of time has, in my humble opinion, proved everyone wrong. High carbohydrate (by default highly refined), low fat diets do not work. Go to any public place and compare the thin-normal people to the overweight-obese people. This is why- sugar (more specifically high fructose corn syrup) has replaced fat.
  • Meat and beans are still lumped together, and fish is not even mentioned.
  • I find the layout of this even more confusing than the original one. 

Now we have My Plate which is the most vague of all- probably for the better. There is no reference to any of the different types of foods, just a recommended portion size. 

My advice...DON'T GET YOUR NUTRITION ADVICE FROM THE GOVERNMENT. Do a little bit of research on your own, use your noggin, and start eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, eggs (basically whole foods that are not highly processed and/or stuffed with sugar and preservatives). 

MOST IMPORTANTLY start listening to your body. The government's general suggestions as to how many servings of bread we should eat are a great way to spend our tax dollars, but they do not take into account that each one of us is different. Some people can eat whatever they want and still have a beautiful body. Some people look at a piece of pizza and gain weight. Only after I started paying attention to what I was eating and how it made me feel did I see how important food is. It can make or break you. 

The only way you are going to figure out how great you can feel is to start cutting out the junk and replacing it with real, nutritionally dense foods. last weigh in of my smoothie challenge!

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