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Defective Food Pyramid

Posted by cavewomanrunner on November 17, 2008

Continuing on my fat phobia thread, I found this great article on why the USDA food pyramid needs to be revised, since it is “nutritionally and biochemically unsound.”

Its recommendations for 6-11 servings of bread, rice, cereal and pasta – in addition to an allowance for sweets – is what many believe is leading to increased disease and our unhealthy masses. Just take a look at our horrific obesity rates over the last few decades – and our dependence on carbs, processed foods, fast foods, and trans fats. More research is showing that the low fat, high carb diet does not work. You need to eat more protein, more good fats, and fruits and veggies instead of carbs (sound familiar?).

USDA Food Pyramid

USDA Food Pyramid

Some points to note:

“By promoting consumption of complex carbohydrates and eschewing all fats and oils, the Pyramid provides misleading guidance. In short, not all fats are unhealthful, and by no means are all complex carbohydrates healthful.”

It is a biochemical fact that no carbohydrate is essential for human nutrition. The body’s metabolism can make all of the glucose it needs from proteins, and it can obtain all of the energy normally supplied by glucose from fats. Although not essential, small amounts of carbohydrate are of benefit to conserve protein by eliminating the need for the body to use protein to make glucose.”

“The recommended 6 to 11 servings a day of bread, rice, cereal, and pasta are not only nutritionally unnecessary, but unwise. Unlike fruits and vegetables, these foods are rapidly converted to glucose. The unfortunate result of this recommendation is a carbohydrate burden that encourages stimulation of excess insulin, which in turn directs excess calories to synthesis of body fat and cholesterol. Excess insulin also interferes in essential fatty acid metabolism. Synthesis of body fat and cholesterol is not the only damage from excess insulin. For example, Schwarzbein, in writing about the fallacy of exercising strenuously to justify the overeating of carbohydrates, states: [I]f you eat a bowl of pasta to carbo-load before exercising, you can burn off the excess sugar as energy but you cannot burn off the excess insulin that has been secreted to match the high sugar. Once insulin levels increase to higher than normal levels, damage begins to occur in your metabolism.”

“The major source of trans fats in foods is the hydrogenation process, which is used primarily to extend shelf life of fats and oils derived from vegetable seeds, by eliminating the highly unsaturated fatty acids (omega-3) responsible for rancidity. Thus, consumers can and should be given the very simple advice for avoiding trans fats, which is to read all labels and not buy any product whose list of contents include such words as partially hydrogenated or vegetable shortening.”

Perhaps the USDA should consult us Paleo folks! Bob Hodgen has a great article on a “correct” food pyramid, that basically turns the USDA one upside-down.

Paleo Food Pyramid

Paleo Food Pyramid


7 Responses to “Defective Food Pyramid”

  1. zola said

    I think you are totally right. I don’t know why any food pyramid should be telling us to eat cake. I’m working on a health project so I discovered the average American diet is one of the most unhealthy diets in the world. It’s pretty sad.

    • Shannon said

      What’s really funny about your post is that the average American diet is referred to as SAD – Standard American Diet.

  2. Alex said

    interesting! i began my search for the pyramid in order to guide a diet that would allow me to tighten up my mid section and pectoral regions. I figured the pyramid was a good place to look! i was shocked at the 6-11 serving recomendation of pasta, etc because of how starchy and carby i know pasta, rice, etc to be! thanks for the advice! i have a question. In trying to build muscle, particularly in the aformentioned regions would you advise a high protein diet, or simply a diet with alot of protein as well as fruits and vegatables?

    • righttosayno said

      Thanks for your comment, Alex. I’m in no way an expert in nutrition and biology, but I can try to answer your questions based on my experience and research. I would consider the Paleo diet itself high in protein – it recommends that meat, especially fish, be your main source of nutrition, as well as vegetables. Those two areas are most important. Then you add fruits, which are higher in glycemic index, but are still natural and contain the nutrients you need. I wouldn’t suggest eating just protein though – your body requires a mix of the good, natural foods (meats, vegetables and fruits – nuts and berries as “dessert”) to meet all of its needs. Also, the carbs in fruits can help you recover faster from your workouts so you can improve your strength or other training.

      Some people argue that you can’t tone and build muscle without carbs. In my personal experience, this is not true. If anything, eating a more natural diet makes it easier for me to work my abs and upper body, and see better results. No, I’m not a huge 400 pound bodybuilder – if that’s what you mean by building muscle, you might want to check out bodybuilding websites. But if you’re looking to get flatter, tighter abs and more overall upper strength (and lower) try the “Paleo” food pyramid and add strength training. I lift weights regularly in addition to my running and have experienced overall toning and strength since changing to my Paleo lifestyle. Mark’s Daily Apple has some great workout ideas and other good research on diet and health, if you want to research more.

  3. Barak said

    Thanks for your blog, cavewoman. I started reading about this paleo diet 2 months ago and I started following it closely about a month ago. I used to weight about 225 and I picked a target weight of 210 for myself (I’m 6’6″ so that’s not exactly a high number) and found that I easily dropped below 210. I don’t want to just keep loosing weight. How long have you been on a paleo diet? How closely are you following it? and do you loose weight every day and never gain? I loose about 1/2 pound a day. I took a break this weekend and gained 4 pounds, so I can now afford to go another week of loosing 1/2 pound a day. 🙂

    • righttosayno said

      Hi Barak. Good for you for going Paleo. Fifteen pounds is quite a bit of weight to drop in a short amount of time. I did see a bit of weight loss when I first started my Paleo eating. After the initial loss I haven’t lost anymore, probably because I really don’t have more to lose. I started the diet to be more healthy and to improve my overall fitness for running, lifting, and dancing. I’ve noticed improvements in all of those areas, and just generally feel better. I’ve heard of numerous people losing weight by eating Paleo – I say the main thing is that you are healthy, eating good, and getting exercise. 🙂

  4. Barak said

    And so I find encouragement in your words that there is an eventual leveling off of the weight loss. I do feel great all the time. I won’t ‘sweat’ the weight loss for now. Thanks!

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