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12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 9 – The Food Pyramid: The Demise of the American Diet

December 18, 2017 0 Comments

(This is part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

We have all seen it hundreds of times. We are familiar with its confusing, rigid rules and strict serving size recommendations. It was plastered everywhere: on cereal boxes, billboards, television, textbooks and newspapers. Everywhere you looked, it lurked. USDA’s Food Pyramid. Have you ever looked at the food pyramid and wondered when and why it was created? How has it changed since the first dietary recommendations were publicized? How has the food industry changed the food pyramid? I never really gave it much thought, other than thinking that having a food pyramid, one recommended way of eating for everyone, is unreasonable, considering no two of the billions of people on this planet are alike.

A Confusing History

Early food recommendations encouraged the general public to eat more, whereas today’s food pyramids and recommendations exist to ensure we eat less. But if we are being told to eat less, then why are 65% of Americans obese and more than 75% are overweight? In the early 1900’s, when the first food intake recommendations were publicized, scientists were unaware of “bad” fats and people were dying because of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, tuberculosis, and influenza at the average age of 47. Scientists did not yet know how to make vitamins and minerals in pill form, so people were encouraged to eat an abundance of different foods: milk, vegetables, fruits, grains and meat, to ensure they were getting the nutrients they needed. 40% of people were farmers compared to today’s 2%, so this made everyone happy: doctors, the economy, and especially the farmers. Processed foods did not inundate market shelves. There wasn’t a need for a rigid food pyramid.

Is Eating Less Really Working?

Today and we are being told to eat less. Some form of the food pyramid has been in existence since 1992, and rigid recommendations began in 1979, but people are fatter, poorer, and sicker than they have ever been. The main causes of death are heart disease, cancer, and diseases of the liver. In a time when we have so much more knowledge about vitamins, minerals, fat, protein, carbohydrates, food and health in general, we are being told to restrict our food intake. We now have to be cautious of trans-fats, the endless choices of added sweeteners and preservatives, and the high quantities of sodium added to our foods. Nearly 30,000 genetically modified products line our market shelves. It is because of this that we are being told to eat less, and people are no longer happy, with the exception of the government and the big corporate food giants, like Philip Morris, Nestle and Kellogg. Today, the American diet is making doctors work harder and people sicker and poorer. I know it’s slightly confusing. Why would being told to eat less not affect the corporate food giants? Today, nutrients can be injected into every food we consume. Want a pizza enriched with whole grains (i.e. processed whole wheat)? You got it. Want a sugary juice enriched with extra vitamin-C? Coming right up! People are now more confused than ever, but still buying the whole-grain pizza, because, you know, grains are on the food pyramid. Now eating less doesn’t affect the food giants, it makes them powerful because they have the “good” pizza. So being told to eat less really means eating more of the pseudo “good-for-you food” the sneaky food giants are selling.

Is There a Solution?

Most recently, the food pyramid has been replaced with “My Plate,” which carries its own issues, such as fruits not being clearly defined. Should we drink fruit juice or eat whole fruits (whole fruits is the answer!)? I see grains on the plate, but what kind of grains? Whole grains? Processed grains? In the dairy section, there is an emphasis on low-fat and fat-free varieties, but recent research is revealing full fat dairy does not pose a heart-health risk and can actually be beneficial. So what is the solution? I think less rigid rules and more nutrition education is the answer in this confusing world of fake food and sugar-coma inducing beverages. But that is for another discussion.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?
Day #6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels
Day #7 –  Minimalist Fitness
Day #8 – 7 Common Myths About Fat Loss

 

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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