The MyPlate Food Pyramid is a relatively new approach to suggesting dietary guidelines to the U.S. Although I praise the efforts to throw out the original food pyramid system, and make a more straightforward diagram that everyone can understand, I can’t help but admit that I still don’t agree.
I love that fruits and vegetables have their own half of the plate, and I agree with the proportion of protein and grains to fruits and vegetables. I think that the plate identification system is perfect for children and adults alike, and I believe that this is a more straightforward approach to guiding our nation on what to eat.
However, I can’t help but feel that this effort has lost my respect with the addition of dairy on the diagram.
First of all, why is dairy present, and yet water has no place? Our bodies are made of approximately 60% water, and we need to drink water because, acording to the Mayo Clinic’s website,
“every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.”
Yes, dairy is a liquid and can account for a small proportion of water in your diet, but it is by no stretch of the imagination vital for daily bodily functioning. Not the way good ole water is, at least.
Second, according to Elizabeth Weise’s article in USA Today, less than 40% of adults retain their ability to digest dairy after infancy and childhood. This means that more than 60% of the world’s adult population has some degree of intolerance to milk and dairy products. If this is in fact the case, and I fundamentally agree with the idea, the consumption of dairy and its products should be left to consumer discretion — In other words, we should not be recommending a daily, let alone thrice daily, consumption of a common allergen to the general population.
Which brings me back to my earlier point…um, water? It’s allergy-free!
Next up, where’s the fat? If you’re thinking it’s represented in protein or dairy, think again. The “standard American diet” contains a toxic ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, and it is imperative to our nation’s health that we educate our population about the value of healthy fats. There are many vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources of healthy omega-3s found in nuts, seeds, fish, sea vegetables, and vegetables. It should be easy to make mention of this on the MyPlate diagram.
America is so stuck on the false idea that fat in your food=fat on your body that we have literally cut out all naturally occurring healthy fats from our diet. However, the opposite is true. People who consume the most amount of healthy fat have been shown to maintain the most healthy body weights. Not to mention our bodies NEED saturated fat for a vast range of functions from hormone production to bone and lung health. Did you know that the fat content of our lungs is made up entirely of saturated fat? Worried about heart disease? Don’t be, good sources of saturated fat consumed in healthy amounts reduces lipoprotein, a substance highly correlated with heart disease.
My next concern with the MyPlate diagram is the lack of mention on the quality of food we should be consuming. Yes, there is also a website that has more detailed information about the foods we should eat, but unfortunately the site is confusing to navigate and not everyone has access to a computer or the internet. But, back to my point.
The age old saying, “you are what you eat” does not come from nothing. The reason we eat is to produce energy, to heal, to grow, to adapt, and to live. Our bodies are literally turning the food we consume into our cells and body. If we are eating foods that are rich in healthy sources of macro- and micro-nutrients our cells are made up of those healthy things. If we are eating foods that are processed, genetically modified, full of chemicals/pesticides/herbicides/fungicides, or are engineered in a laboratory, what do we think is happening inside our bodies after we digest that? The MyPlate diagram does no justice until it mentions the importance of healthy fats and in the appropriate quantities.
Quality also concerns seasonality. The local seasonal food movement is not just a bunch of hippies doing their thing. There is validity to it. Foods grow seasonally because soil and sunlight conditions for different plants are ideal at certain times of the years. Certain conditions are ideal for growing certain fruits and vegetables because of how each food absorbs its nutritional content through the sun and soil. Tomatoes don’t taste as sweet in the winter because they are not being exposed to their ideal growing environment. Winter vegetables taste bland in the summer because they develop taste and nutrient content in the cold conditions. If we are not eating in accordance with those cycles, we are not eating vitamin and mineral rich foods. Simple as that.
The MyPlate diagram should suggest water over dairy, organic when possible, seasonal produce, and grains that are whole and unrefined.
After all bread, crackers, and pasta don’t grow on trees.
For a better looking plate that meets all of my criteria, check out the plate that my peers and I practice on my health counseling website, The Gourmetour