The traditional food pyramid goes like this from the bottom (things you should eat more of) to the top (things you should eat less of): bread, rice, cereal and pasta group; fruit and vegetable group; meats and dairy products; fats and sweets.
Most of us have seen this during health education in our younger school days and many of us stayed dedicated to it. But is the food pyramid all that great? Or is there something it neglected to tell us? Here are 5 ways the food pyramid has managed to fool us:
1. It doesn’t tell us what types of starches to consume
At the bottom of the pyramid lie bread, rice, and cereal and pasta group. These foods provide glucose and energy, and that’s great, except that the food pyramid doesn’t tell you that not all starches are good. In actual fact, starches that come from wholegrain products are the healthiest, and despite what the pyramid says (or doesn’t say), you should avoid processed ones even though they hold plenty of carbohydrates.
2. It ostracises fat and oils
Fats and oil have been given a bad name for contributing to weight-gain and other health conditions. However, not all these negative claims are true. Our bodies need fat in order to function properly. Some oils such as coconut oil and olive oil can be beneficial to our health and well-being. So don’t cut out the fats like what the pyramid tells you to do, and don’t be guilty of adding healthy oils to your cooking either.
3. It tells us to eat less sweets
Sweets are placed in the same pyramid as fats and oils, suggesting the healthiest foods are those that aren’t sweet. What it fails to say is that there are other sweetening alternatives that are healthy, and it is the refined sugar that we should cut ourselves off.
4. It suggests that healthy diet should be high-carb and low-fat
Following the above points about carbohydrates and fats, healthy diets may not need to be high-carb and low-fat. In fact, the reverse may be true. Many people have gone on low-carb and high-fat diets like the ketogenic diet and experienced beneficial changes to their health and physique. The key is to eat healthy types of carbohydrates and fats, with everything in moderation.
5. It sets a limit to protein
Meat and dairy products are placed near the top of the pyramid, which may make sense to some people when they think that too much protein is hard on the liver and kidneys. However, the truth is that there is no conclusive study to show that high protein consumption negatively affects the liver and kidney. In fact, protein is essential for repairing the body and one should consume more of it when doing hard physical work or training.
The food pyramid was created many years ago when there was less research being invested in the field of nutrition. As the years progress, it should be updated and also account for the various types associated with each food group. Taking the stipulated guidelines with a pinch of salt instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach makes for a more practical and healthy approach.