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How Food Guide Pyramid Has Gotten Everything Wrong About Nutrition!

The original Food Guide Pyramid was designed and introduced was introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992. The basis of the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations was the claim that most people needed more nutrition, not less. Calories had to be maximized for both cost and density—and what is typically the best way to get the most caloric bang for your buck? Carbs.

The Food Guide Pyramid included six blocks. It was set up with ...

  • a “base” of grains and carbohydrates (6–11 servings of bread, rice, pasta, etc.),

  • followed by the fruit (2–4 servings) and vegetables (3–5 servings) group,

  • then the dairy group (2–3 servings),

  • and the protein group, including meat, eggs, nuts, and beans (2–3 servings),

  • and was topped off, of course, by the fats group at the peak of the pyramid.

With the introduction of the Food Guide Pyramid in the 90's, people came to equate highly processed “low-fat” junk food as “healthy” and that, of course, wasn’t true. Adding to the problem was the model’s success in encouraging Americans to prioritize consuming carbohydrates, which resulted in diets dominated by excess calories, sugar, and starches. The base of the pyramid being a “grain” group was heavily influenced by lobbying efforts from the grain industry, which led people astray into thinking carbs were separate from fruits and vegetables.

The type of grains suggested by the pyramid were also a problem. All carbs are not the same, but the food pyramid did not make that clear. It didn’t differentiate between the various types of carbohydrates, including simple, complex, and processed. The pyramid didn’t emphasize whole grains and so in some ways encouraged the intake of refined grains.

Another challenge with the initial food pyramid was the absence of portion size listing for each food group.

With all that the government has gotten wrong about nutrition through the decades, people often wonder what the future will look like. The good news is, we are moving in the right direction. Today, we know that saturated fats (such as butter, lard, ghee, cold pressed plant oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil) aren’t “bad” and that eating low-fat foods and seed oils causes serious health problems.

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