In 1992, the US Department of Agriculture introduced a food pyramid, recommending a carbohydrate-rich diet and minimum intake of fats, with a primary goal to minimize the consumption of saturated fats blamed for raising cholesterol levels. The pyramid suggested generous amounts of vegetables, fruit and dairy products and two servings of meat and beans every day. By promoting the intake of complex carbohydrates while excluding all fats and oils in the diet, the 1992 food pyramid was found to be flawed, providing misleading guidance on fats. Eating too much of the wrong kind of carbs, which are rich in starch, risks causing heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers claimed that neither all complex carbohydrates are good, nor all fats are bad for human health. Thus the pyramid was altered in 2005 and a new pyramid was introduced, which placed emphasis on a greater amount of whole grains and exercise while overlooking the dangers of sugar and fat and neglecting the benefits of healthier oils. However, since the new pyramid neglected health benefits of some essential oils and overlooked dangers of excess sugar intake, it was also seen as flawed. The reality is that the pyramid encourages Americans to eat more and consume all the wrong things and thus become unhealthier. So nutritionists are now proposing a new food pyramid, encouraging consumption of whole grains and healthy fats while minimizing intake of red meat, butter, and reﬁned carbohydrates.
New Food Pyramid
Researchers at Harvard University have proposed a revised food pyramid, incorporating improvements to address many issues in the old pyramid. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers claim that high consumption of starch from potatoes and refined grains poses a risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes while greater intake of fiber lowers risk of these illnesses. Proposing new nutritional recommendations, they suggest eating:
- Whole grains and plant oils at most meals
- Vegetables, excluding potatoes, in abundance
- Two or three servings of fruits every day
- One or two servings of dairy products
- Proteins in the form of fish, nuts, eggs, beans, poultry
With the rising number of obesity cases in the US, Harvard researchers suggest sparing use of white bread, white rice, red meat, and butter, while completely avoiding trans fats. They also recommend keeping weight under control by indulging in regular physical activity and consuming less amount of calories. A healthy/balanced diet, experts suggest, does not include processed food or fast food.
Eat less, drink plenty of water, and exercise more is the mantra these days, especially as statistics of coronary disease, obesity, and diabetes continue to soar. Research reveals that people who eat nuts are less likely to be obese, since these are more satisfying to the appetite and make you feel full instantly.
High intake of fruits and vegetables has been associated with a reduction in cancer risk. The folic acid in green leafy vegetables helps minimize the risk of colon cancer. The lack of folic acid poses a higher risk of serious birth defects and degeneration of the retina. Fruits and vegetables are the key source of vitamins required for enjoying good health.