With all the news about the old USDA Food Pyramid being replaced by the new MyPlate (which only cost the government $2 million to create!) I thought that an in-depth look at the old Pyramid is in order. I actually had a post planned about how the Food Pyramid desperately needed to be updated, but the USDA beat me to it.
Getting rid of this outdated model (which hasn’t worked) is a good step… unfortunately, the new My Plate may be a step backward (but that is another post… stay tuned tomorrow!)
You are probably familiar with the old USDA Food Pyramid which recommends 6-11 servings of lectin, gluten and phytic acid packed heart healthy whole grains, followed by fruits and vegetables (always in that order), followed by low-fat dairy and lean meats. Fats, Oils, and Sweets were always to be eaten sparingly.
Besides the fat that I seriously doubt that most people consult the food pyramid before making eating choices… in the 20 years that this one has been in existence, people have, on average been getting sicker and fatter… not healthier.
Of course, the USDA maintains that this is simply because the pyramid is complicated and hard for us non-government-official-committees to understand, which is why their new version is an insultingly basic model.
The USDA hasn’t even considered that perhaps the reason people are getting fatter and sicker could be in part due to the upside down pyramid they promote and the “low-fat-heart-healthy-whole-grain” message that is promoted by the mainstream medical and nutrition communities.
In fact, the general reaction to the failure of current medical and nutritional advice seems to be to suggest that we eat less fat and more fiber, as evidenced by the new recommendations.
The USDA recommendations for an average person on a 2,000 calorie a day diet is to consume over 300 grams of carbohydrates a day. Consider for one minute the possibility that excess carbohydrates, not excess fat (which the USDA only recommends 65 grams of a day) cause problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and even if Americans are only following half of the advice set forth by the USDA, and its easy to see why these diseases are rampant.
[If you want a great explanation on why carbohydrates/insulin, and not fat, cause obesity, check out the great book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.]
Despite mounting evidence that the Lipid Hypothesis is dead (the idea that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease) and that high carbohydrate intake is the culprit behind the bevy of modern diseases, the USDA still recommends eating limited fat and simply increasing fruit, vegetable and whole grain consumption to get healthier.
Even in the face of new data and evidence, the case against fat continues. In fact, recent research found that the ancient Egyptians, who ate healthier than we do by our own standards, had a higher rate of heart disease.
Until now, researchers thought that our modern lifestyle with fatty and processed foods caused heart disease, though after this study was released, they admit that they might not understand heart disease as well as they once thought.
The study, which evaluated the calcification in the arteries of Egyptian mummies found high rates of atherosclerosis. Nearly half of all the mummies evaluated had calcified arteries, and some of them were under 40 when they died.
According to the study:
The Egyptians ate more fruit and vegetables and less meat than we do and their meat was leaner. They also led a more active lifestyle and were not thought to have smoked. Given that they developed atherosclerosis anyway, Thomas said, it becomes even more important to take measures to forestall development of the disease as long as possible, including stopping smoking, eating less red meat and losing weight.
Cognitive dissonance at its finest! To recap- they ate “healthier” by eating more lean meat and more fruits and vegetables (as the USDA recommends) and ate little fat (which the USDA also recommends) and they got sick more often that we do. So the logical conclusion is… drum roll please…. that we need to eat even less fat and even more whole grains, lean meats and fruits and veggies. Logical? I didn’t think so either!
Perhaps if we get rid of meats and saturated animal fats all together and just eat all fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains, then we could be healthy! But wait, that doesn’t work either!
Maybe one day, conventional wisdom and the USDA will shift from demonizing fats and reconsider the idea that excess carbohydrates (sugars) and not fats cause heart disease. In the meantime, check out the documentary Fat Head (watch free!) and this article about the harmful effects of sugar and form your own educated opinion.
What do you think? Were you a fan of the old Food Pyramid? Is fat the problem?