Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Who Built the Food Pyramids?

TL;DR: the traditional food pyramid is wrong and places too much emphasis on foods like milk and grains. Although the revised one I've linked here is supposedly science-based and unaffected by business interests, it comes from Harvard, which, despite what you might think, isn't a bastion of objectivity. You need to determine what is best for you, and then construct your own food pyramid or food gazebo or pagoda or whatever.

Food is the common denominator

Nutrition is important, in part because it is the only thing that created your life and continues to drive you forward in every second of every day.

Okay, okay- dramatic. But hear me out: I used to have this notion of an innate spark of human activity, one that simply needs the right dietary conditions to prosper. However, it's not some spark of life that drives every thought and twitch and glare and snuggle and puke that happen in your every day life: it's the food you put into your body.

Think about it: great that your parents locked lips and took the baby plunge. After that divine juncture, the only thing supporting your existence has been food. Food is just a variety of chemicals that you, a large bag of molecules, break down to build more molecules.

People, especially freakishly athletic people, love thinking of their bodies as machines. The problem is that machines run on a single fuel, while humans run on water, sugars, proteins, vitamins, and taquitos from 7-11, ideally consumed at 5:30am to maximize nutritional impact (science). You may think it's complex and excessive to have Vitamins A/B/C/D/E/K, Calcium, Omega 3-6-9, etc.., but this list of 30-odd chemicals enables your little train engine to 'choo-choo' through life!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for milk products!

Switching tracks: here is the first North American Food Pyramid, published in 1992 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Notice that an entire section of this diagram is derived from a single animal, ergo a single industry: dairy cows. This is a great example of how money can override health science- the suggested daily intake of 2-3 servings of milk/cheese/yoghurt directly translates to (approximately) a pazillion dollars per day for the dairy industry.

Before the Egyptians realized that the USDA owed them eleventy billion dollars in pyramid royalties, the US federal government commissioned a 'Healthy Eating Plate' from Harvard, published in 2011. Notice the caveat to 'limit dairy'. You just know several bloated Wisconsonian dairy magnates lost their MARBLES when they decided to re-write that one:

The bottom line is: things change, and they will continue to change. Realistically, this new 'food pyramid' is still the result of industry influence- it doesn't even address the nutritional viability of pursuing pescetarianism, vegetarianism, veganism, or that thing where people think they can live off of sunlight. Just remember that if you follow an organized regimen that includes a variety of fruits and veggies and some healthy protein, you satisfy all of your dietary needs. Interestingly, there is strong evidence to suggest that if you eat fruit and vegetables regularly, it's healthier to NOT take vitamins.

Everyone is completely unique. Do some research, and go talk to a nutritionist. Food is really important.

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