The Food Pyramid: Why It Might Be Ruining Your Diet
The food pyramid is a piece of nutritional guidance that the government put out in the 1970s. It’s been a big player in the way that most people eat over the past few decades, and it’s set the scene for how we talk about the “average” diet.
There’s only one problem: it’s awful advice.
Today, we’re going to take you through the food pyramid, where it comes from, what’s wrong with it, and how you can work past these out-dated ideas to improve your diet.
What is it?
The food pyramid was introduced by the government in the 1970s to provide general-guidance. It was a response to the way that nutrition culture had developed, as the 1900s saw some incredible fad diets rise and fall.
The prescriptions that the food pyramid provides are simple: carbs make up the majority of the diet, followed by fruit and vegetables, moderate amounts of dairy and fish, relatively small amounts of meat, and very little fats and sugars.
This isn’t wrong about everything, but there is a lot of misinformation there. This is because it was a system pushed by politicians, not nutritionists or other experts in the field. Clearly, this is a bad start!
What’s Wrong with it?
To start with, the food pyramid promotes dependence on simple carbohydrates which is an awful dia. Carbs aren’t bad by themselves but over-eating a carb-heavy diet is a huge risk for diabetes. Unsurprisingly, the type-2 diabetes numbers have shot up since the 1970s and its one of the top-10 killers in the U.K.
Restricting Healthy Foods, Promoting Unhealthy Foods
There are also huge problems with some of the foods that are limited – some great foods that are restricted to very few (2-3 servings). The most obvious of these are fats – even healthy ones. They may be high in calories, but healthy fats like nuts and seeds should be a big part of your diet and are great for heart health.
Beyond this, reducing the intake of dry beans, pulses, seeds, nuts, and beyond is a real problem. These are some of the healthiest carb and fat sources, but the food pyramid suggests restricting them while eating 6-11 servings of bread, cereals and pasta. This is the exact opposite of what the nutritional science says you should be doing!
So, the main problem we have is that the pyramid doesn’t really make sense. The wide base of huge carb consumption is a problem for diabetes risk, it pushes out healthy carbs and fats, and it pushes people to make poor choices about what to eat. This is, ironically, a failure at its only purpose!
One Size Fits All
Once we’re past the silly misinformation and mistakes, there’s a deeper problem to the food pyramid.
Simply put, your diet should not be the same as everyone else’s. You are an individual human being – your nutritional needs depend on everything from your age to the type of exercise you do. It’s not as simple as eating a set amount of servings of each type of nutrient.
The amount of proteins, fats, and carbs that you need are totally different to someone who runs ironman races, or an Olympic weightlifter, or a strongman. So why would you use the same diet template as everyone else?
The idea behind this food pyramid simply doesn’t make sense. You don’t need to eat a ridiculous pyramid of foods – you need a diet that responds to your individual needs and provides the nutrition to recovery and improve your physique/training. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to food.
What Should you Be Doing Instead?
To start with, you need a diet that is moulded to the type of exercise you’re performing, the goals you have, and the foods you like. You need a diet that fits you, that you’ll be able to stick with, and that brings real results. The food pyramid doesn’t do this: it’s not enough guidance to be a diet, and it doesn’t consider that you’re a unique individual.
An effective diet also prioritises healthy fats and carbs. Instead of the nutrient-devoid white bread and cereals diet that the pyramid suggests. Pulses, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, veggies and fruits should make up the majority of your diet. These are the best sources of both carbs and fats.
You also need to be able to adjust a diet on the fly according to your time commitments, when you’re exercising, and what foods you like. This isn’t talked about as much, but it’s a key part of changing your behaviours and developing good food-habits.
Closing Remarks: Lessons from the Food Pyramid
The first lesson from the food pyramid is that you probably shouldn’t let politicians tell you what you should be eating. There’s a lot of money and politics in food and agriculture – politicians aren’t going to be an objective source or educated on nutrition science.
If you want nutritional advice, talk to an expert, not a government bureaucrat. You also need to match your nutritional needs to your personal biology and the exercise/activity/lifestyle you’re living. That’s the role of a coach, nutritionist or trainer, and it’s why we spend so much time trying to educate you on these areas.
Finally, work with someone who cares about your goals rather than pushing an agenda. What we do here at Action-Reaction is develop training and exercise plans that work together to produce health, fitness, and physique changes. This is what nutrition is about.
If you want to discuss your needs, or get further guidance on nutrition/exercise, get in touch. We love hearing from you and are happy to respond to any queries with expert, professional advice!
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