Q&A: Is the World Health Organisation’s Food Pyramid Flawed?

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World Health Organisation’s Flawed Eating Recommendations.

I’m quite amazed when I realised that I’m not an overweight adult, who grew up as an overweight kid. And looking at my parents and my brothers, none of us are overweight. Funny. I guess my parents did something right to keep our weight and health good while we were kids.

When I looked at the very well known food pyramid, I saw a couple of things that disturbed me. Our family’s diet when I was a child, was mostly based on this food pyramid. For a while I was blinded by the fact that some big ‘nutritional’ companies also endorse this food pyramid. Most people in the western world saw it, I believe. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the World Health Organisation’s Countrywide Noncommunicable Disease Intervention Program (CINDI) each designed a food pyramid. The reason for these pyramids is to give recommendations on how to eat ‘healthy’.

To get the picture, go and watch this 30 second video on how Disney’s Timon and Pumbaa also jumped on this bandwagon. Find the link to this video at the end of the article. They recommend that grain should be the base of this pyramid, which means that you should eat more grains that anything else. And then the previous USDA pyramid made protein almost an occasional food. As showed in this video clip, you ‘need’ a bag full of grain and small plates of everything else.

This is a recipe for disaster. I wonder why obesity got out of hand since these food pyramids were published in 1992? Is fat the problem that make people fat? I don’t think so, because these food pyramids limit fats and oils in their recommendations.

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It is true that we need everything that is listed on their food pyramids, but they got the balance all wrong.

In the early 80’s, the USDA employed nutritionist Luise Light to give guidelines to replace and simplify the Basic Four of the time. She submitted the food pyramid, but when she saw the changes made to her pyramid, she was shocked. Despite her objections, they went on and accepted the revised pyramid.

Dr. Light’s version placed fruit and vegetables at the base of the pyramid. Something that alarmed her was what they did with refined foods, baked from white flour, such as crackers and white bread. Light’s team placed it at the the top, where your should eat it rarely. The USDA placed it right at the base of the pyramid, making it an daily essential!

With all this controversy going on, I went to the oldest handbook for human life that I know of, to find my answers there. In the Bible, right in Genesis 1:29 I found what God said the human race’s food will be. There He said that we should eat he seed from plants, fruit and vegetables. Later in Gen 9:2-3 God gave fish, birds and animals as food too.

Where do we find the balance? Here are the broad guidelines that I follow myself and recommend to my clients.

Fruit and vegetables should be at the base of your pyramid. Eat plenty of it. In fact I believe that you cannot possibly eat too much of it. Eat it with as little as possible preparation (processing) and with unprocessed seasoning. Every time food gets processed, it loses nutritional value, which means that the nutrition-calorie ratio gets out of hand.

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Next I recommend protein. Most people don’t get enough protein in. Make use of a great protein supplement to provide you all the amino acids in the right quantities. In another newsletter I’ll show you the importance of protein and how much you need daily.

Carbohydrates are good for you, that is when you eat complex carbs. Refined foods are simple carbs and unprocessed food is complex carbs. Grain falls in my third category. It mostly supplies energy and some other nutrients.

Lastly is junk food. That is not only the fast foods from the street, but also all kinds of snack food. In my opinion it doesn’t classify as food. Our reverend once said that all things we eat, but for which we don’t pray, is not food. You can eat these foods, and I certainly eat it myself. But moderation is the key. It should be no more that a weekly treat or in very small quantities. When people ask me, I answer that I allow myself to ‘cheat’ once a week.

Remember water. This is the single component in your diet that you need the most of. You don’t drink two litres of milk daily, do you? Two litres of Coke daily will kill you in a short time. But you need about 2 litres of water each and every day.

The 2005 version of the USDA food pyramid added exercise. At least there is something they got right.

To eat healthy, forget about the established food pyramids, it’s designed to make people sick and fat.

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I grew up on mieliepap (porridge) and bread for two meals. The main meal was a cooked meal with protein, vegetables and some starch. Maybe I got enough of the good stuff in, and moderately of the bad stuff. Snack food and restaurants were a luxury in our house, so that cut most of that problem out for us. And we grew up outside of cities and towns, with lots of room to play outside.

What my parents did right, I’m not completely sure. But I’m grateful that I didn’t grow up as an unhealthy, fat kid.

 

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