Healthy Food Pyramid?
So what is in a healthy food pyramid? I would say it's not what's in the USDA's recommended food pyramid. The USDA's pyramid was based on a diet of grains, dairy, and meat, with too little emphasis on fruits and vegetables. The USDA's pyramid reflects the American diet today, which is centered around animal products and processed foods rather than whole plant foods. Although their pyramid has been replaced with the MyPlate icon, an improvement, it still mixes science with the lobbying power of the meat and dairy industries.
The USDA allowed for multiple servings of dairy, meat, and oils which are nutrient poor foods and do not contribute micro-nutrients and should not have such a prominent position in the diet. Dairy is not required for good health, and it contributes saturated fat and animal protein both of which should be limited.
The USDA also placed more emphasis on grains, whereas in a healthy diet pyramid, the most emphasis is on vegetables. They recommended half of grain servings each day are whole grain rather than refined, this leaves too much room for dangerous refined carbohydrate products in the diet and less room for fruit and vegetables. Although whole grains are healthful there nutrient density is not as great as those of other refined plant foods. In a healthy diet pyramid whole grains are included but are limited and fresh fruits, vegetables, and beans, are emphasized because of their high nutrient to calorie ratios and can be eaten in unlimited quantities.
The USDA also combines meat and beans into a single category. They are both sources of protein but since meat is a disease promoting food and beans are a health promoting food they should not be in the same category. Proteins from meat is also packaged with saturated fat and cholesterol and the proteins in beans is packaged with fiber and phytochemicals. In a healthy diet beans are eaten daily and meat is limited to rarely.
The USDA does not see the importance of nuts and seeds in the diet. There is no nut and seed food group they are included in the meat and bean category. In a healthy food pyramid nuts and seeds are included every day because of their potent cardiovascular benefits.
However, for someone who is trying to lose weight they should be limited since they are calorie dense.
Dr. Furhman's Healthy Food Pyramid
It has been said that we need to eat meat, especially red meat in order to get the nutrients we need and grow big and strong. That is not science, that is just marketing by the beef industry. Think about it, do beef eat meat to get their nutrients? No they only eat plant based diets. The largest animals on the planet eat only plants and they still grow big and strong.
Over the last 20 or so years nutritional science has demonstrated that colorful plant foods contain a huge assortment of protective compounds. By eating an assortment of these nutrient rich natural foods we have access to these protective compounds that prevent common diseases that afflict many Americans. Our modern low nutrient, high calorie diet has led to an overweight population, most of which develop diseases of nutritional ignorance like obesity and heart disease.
The foundation of the healthy food pyramid should be made of the foods with the highest ratio of nutrients to calories, which means vegetables. Most of the daily diet, as much as 90%, should be made up of high nutrient plant food.
The rest of the diet, can contain small amounts of the low nutrient high calorie foods that are prevalent in today's diet. That would be animal products, sweets, and processed foods.