Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Breaking Down the Food Pyramid — And How to Use It

Posted By on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 6:56 AM

Nobody really likes the Food Pyramid.

Designed to provide an easy guide to help Americans make smart food choices, it has been fraught with controversy. The USDA versions issued in 1992 and 2005 have been criticized by foodies and scientists alike.

I personally had given up on the whole concept until colleague Steve Haruch alerted me to this helpful article on the Lifehacker site.

Writer Adam Dachis goes over all the problems with the pyramid (lumping all carbohydrates together is one obvious flaw), then takes the issue a step further: suggesting ways to reimagine the pyramid and use it as a springboard to better eating.

Dachis' argument is too detailed to summarize here, but it's all about incorporating shades of gray into
the black-and-white world of the pyramid. Three points are key: all nutritional advice has to be tailored to the individual; instead of designating good or bad foods, consumers should learn about pros and cons; and it's good to figure out the calorie counts of meal components — not to be rigid, but to help adapt the pyramid's murky suggestions about daily servings to your own needs.

Another helpful feature of the post: It links to a reprint of a seminal 2003 critique of the pyramid. Writing in Scientific American, Harvard nutritionists Walter C. Willett and Meir J. Stampfer made a point that many people still resist — they debunk the blanket notion that dietary fat is bad for you. What matters is the type of fat and overall calorie consumption.

And for people with insulin resistance (a good chunk of the American populace), looking at the carbs in your diet may be just as important.

I'm sure that the Bites reading public is pretty sophisticated about nutrition, so I'll repeat the question that Dachis concludes with: "How do you adapt general food guidelines to your individual eating needs and habits?"

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