FOOD PYRAMID = PYRAMID OF FOOD?

If the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid- the monument to good nutrition promoted by government and private health agencies- was revised, it would significantly reduce the number of people dying from heart attacks, strokes and other diseases.
The Pyramid, as depicted below, advises people to build their whole diet on a foundation of pasta, grains and cereals. In fact, the broad base of the pyramid is made entirely of carbohydrates. Fats and sweets occupy the narrow peak. It means that carbohydrates are good and fats are bad. Fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products are in between.

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The reality, however, is more complicated than this. The Pyramid ignores differences between fats, some of which have good effects on blood cholesterol, and some should be entirely eliminated from a diet. It doesn’t differentiate between good and bad proteins and carbs and it encourages too many servings of carbohydrates.  “At best, the USDA pyramid offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice on an absolutely vital topic — what we eat. At worst, the misinformation it offers contributes to obesity, poor health and unnecessary early deaths. In either case, it stands as a missed opportunity to improve the health of millions of people”, says Harvard professor Walter Willett, a top national nutrition researcher, and author of a new book,Eat, Drink and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating.

He says the Pyramid puts too much emphasis on red meat and lumps too many different types of carbohydrates together. He says it doesn’t give enough emphasis to nuts, beans and healthy oils, which have positive health effects. So, he has created his own alternative, the Healthy Eating Pyramid, which has daily exercise and weight control at the base, recommends eating whole grains at most meals, and puts emphasis on consuming plant oils like olive, canola and soy. It also suggests eating lots of vegetables and gives fish, poultry and eggs a higher profile than red meat.

His Harvard team carried out a long-term study assessing the diets of more than 100,000 men and women in the United States. Men and women whose diet most closely followed the new guidelines lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease by 39% and 28% respectively. The researchers found that men whose diet followed the guidelines lowered their overall risk of major chronic disease by 20% and women lowered their
overall risk by 11%. Using the old U.S. pyramid, the researchers found the overall risk reduction was 11% for men and 3% for women.

 “The Food Pyramid is tremendously flawed. It says all fats are bad; all complex carbohydrates are good; all protein sources offer the same nutrition; and dairy should be eaten in high amounts. None of this is accurate.”

 Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and author of a book, Eat, Drink and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating

 But, what if the Harvard diet is not accurate either?

A formal study of the low-carb, high-fat Atkins diet, conducted by Dr. Eric Westman of Duke University, was presented last November at the annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA). In research 120 overweight volunteers have been ‘randomly assigned to the Atkins diet or the heart association’s Step 1 diet, a widely used low-fat approach. On the Atkins diet, people limited their carbs to less than 20 grams a day, and 60 percent of their calories came from fat.

After six months, the people on the Atkins diet had lost 31 pounds, compared with 20 pounds on the AHA diet, and more people stuck with the Atkins regimen.

Total cholesterol fell slightly in both groups. However, those on the Atkins diet had an 11 percent increase in HDL, the good cholesterol, and a 49 percent drop in triglycerides. On the AHA diet, HDL was unchanged, and triglycerides dropped 22 percent. High triglycerides may raise the risk of heart disease.’ [11]

To prove a point, one may find similarly encouraging study results on any given diet even though popular diet plans and weight management programs have diet routines contradictory one to the other (so should be the results). The weight loss plans range from the draconian (only grapefruit) to the lavish (all the red meat, cheese and butter you can eat), the products from the believable (stair-stepping machines) to the frivolous (cellulite creams). With more than 25% of Americans attempting to lose weight at any given time, and spending more than $33 billion yearly on weight-reduction products our nation is the most vigorously dieting one in the world, and the most obese.

And while some will succeed in taking the weight off, very few–perhaps 5 percent–will manage to keep all of it off in the long run. 190 people out of 200 do not meet their first goal in the weight reduction programs. Of the 10 that do, nine regain the weight lost and only one of the 200 maintains the weight lost. This proved that diets don’t work. The diet industry countered that all 200 had lost weight, 10 reached the first goal and, therefore, diets do work – it is people that don’t.

One reason for the low success rate is that many people look for quick and easy solutions to their weight problems. They find it hard to believe in this age of scientific innovations and medical miracles that an effortless weight-loss method doesn’t exist.

And it doesn’t. Any claims that you can lose weight effortlessly, by pharmacological means are false. There’s no magic pill capable of burning, blocking, absorbing, or flushing fat from the system, no magic lotion, potion, patch, or device to shed unwanted pounds. The weight loss programs also have their own drawbacks; they are time consuming, as they often require designing your own menu based on the diet plan principles and frequently mix the diet with exercise- a combination simply unacceptable by many sedentary people.

So, really, what does work and what doesn’t?

If I told you the old cliché that a balanced, healthy diet and sensible, regular exercise are the keys to maintaining your ideal weight this book wouldn’t be worth anything to you. You’ve heard it a thousand times already. Although this cliché is true there is much more to it than simply stating that eating healthy is healthy.

For example:

 

n  Soy, promoted as a wonder food and a necessary element of every healthy diet is in fact toxic, especially to the children.

n  Milk– a “healthy” component of the daily regime, allegedly preventing the bone loss acts the other way around-it hastens the bone loss, and it can cause diabetes and asthma.

n  Heavily advertised as healthy, zero-calories, sugar substitutes such as aspartame are simply poisonous. They also make you fat!

n  Veggies and fruits – the nourishing part of the most of rational diets can, in some instances, induce severe illnesses and diseases.

 Read on for more scientifically proven, shocking examples, supported by quotations from referenced sources by leading experts in the field.

In the following parts of the book I will also focus on the newest discoveries in the area of diet and nutrition, discoveries that will shake your faith in nutritional medicine to its foundations.

Let me then start right from the basis of the USDA Food Pyramid.

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