Our screwed up food pyramid: Let's turn it upside down

We’ve heard it for years, the healthy food pyramid, with its wide base of grains and cereals, should be the basis of a healthy diet. But where did the pyramid as we know it come from and are its recommendations really optimal for our health?

Fact: Until 2005 Americans were advised they needed 6-11 servings of carbohydrate every day.

By who? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). No, this is not a health department. In fact the USDA is still giving dietary advice today – no surprises that grains make up a significant proportion.

Unfortunately many of these grains become refined carbohydrate.

The USDA’s guidelines have been criticized for being influenced by the agricultural industry.1 Maybe it’s time we started replacing some of these grains with something else – you guessed it - green vegetables, proteins and good fats.

What about grains?

Now a few things to keep in mind about grains. Grains contain phytic acid which may reduce minerals being absorbed. 2-4 Some grains also contain that loathed food of the moment – gluten. Even if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten still might be an issue.5

But whole grains equal fiber and fiber is good for me, right? Yes, but while whole grains do contain fiber, green vegetables contain far more. When you compare the cooked weights, green vegetables contain around 4-6 times the fiber, and have less starchy carbohydrate.

Carbs Summary

  1. Everyone can benefit from reducing refined or over-processed carbs from their diets, and ideally eliminating these foods: sugars, candy, soda, white bread - you know the bad stuff.
  2. Naturally occurring, or whole carbs are especially good if you are exercising regularly. They contain fiber which is awesome. These are the starchy and green vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts.
  3. A lower-carb whole food diet is great if you are looking to re-set your eating patterns and lose some body fat. Check out the Les Mills 21 day challenge to get you started.

So, what are you having for dinner? Is that steak going to go with pasta, or perhaps some more greens. Why not give it a go?

Also on carbs:

Carbs 101 - We have a look at why not all carbs are created equal and what an ideal intake looks like.
Incredible Insulin - This is what you need to know about insulin, and fructose.

Contributing editors: Diana Archer-Mills, Sarah Wakeman BSc. Biology PGDip. Food science.

Heading up our nutrition project is Dr. Jackie Mills (B Phys Ed, MBCh B, Dip Obstetrics), a specialist in nutritional medicine, an obstetrician and general medical practitioner. Jackie completed her post-graduate studies in nutrition at the Australian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) and has practiced nutritional medicine for 25 years. As Les Mills’ Chief Creative Officer, Jackie is responsible for the development of all LES MILLS™ exercise programs.

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