Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The food pyramid

I have been reading Michael Pollan's book 'In Defence of Food' which looks at the american government policies about food. Obviously this advice comes from nutrition scientists so generally reflects the thinking in Australia and our subsequent policies about 'healthy eating'.
He reflects on the nutrition scientists history of discovering the elements of our food, the discovery of protein, carbs and fats marked the point where they thought they knew 'everything' in food. Then when certain diseases did not seem to fit this model, such as scurvy then scientists discovered a whole new set of hidden elements of our food - vitamins. Well! They thought they knew it all then!

Out thinking about lipids or at that particular time animal fats came out of post war observations. During rationing the rates of heart disease etc dropped significantly. On the surface it would seem that the limited supplies of meats, butters, lard etc dropped those pesky rates of lifestyle diseases? So what was the result of this observation?

Don't know if anyone remembers the song that used to play on Australian television from 'Life Be In It' ♪♫ eat less fat, eat less salt, eat less sugar!! ♫♪
Here's a reminder remember Norm?
But what was the result? Did we get thinner? Did rates of lifestyle diseases drop?
Big fat NO! The got worse and while they did, we started learning new things about food, such as Carbohydrates can make you fat too. Did the government revise the food pyramid? No - they just started telling the public they are not exercising enough! Its our fault!
Looking at the pyramid....if you ate like this there is NO way you could stay slim and lifestyle disease free.
Along came Atkins type diets...Carbs are the enemy, meats, dairy, cheeses are great!! Green leafy vegetables are great!! Sugar is bad!! While it is a 'little' extreme many people have followed this diet with amazing results, so are they on to something here? And why are we not seeing changes in the food pyramid?
Well look at the bottom  of the pyramid - processed foods. Cereals, pasta, breads all able to be manufactured and made a profit from PLUS you can 'tinker' with them as the latest diet crazes hit such as Omega 3? Now in breads, cereals and pastas. Low carb? yup you can get low carb pasta. Low GI? yup you have all these products including some biscuits declaring their low carb status from the shelves.
So what is the solution? Step back for a moment, consider the way traditional diets are - generally animal products, meats, cheeses, butter, yogurt, fruits and vegetables with some wholegrains for good measure. Generally low carb.
Consider this as an alternative food pyramid.....

Don't know about you but this seems like the pyramid of least processing?
I tell you what this journey is opening my eyes a LOT, there are a lot of entrenched habits we need to sort through. Guilt is a big one for me - especially if I 'break' what the government calls 'healthy food'

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