What and how you eat
    The Food Pyramid
    Counting calories: a key to diet literacy
    Your activity level
    The best form of exercise
    Chart your weight
    Sustainable agriculture
    Medical condition
    On hunger
    On eating out
    On cooking
    On addiction
    Food as love
    Spiritual Vegetarianism
    On temptation and resolve
    Six months report
    Dieting as meditation
 Grapevine Revisited
 Christmas Letter

This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.

The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.

The Food Pyramid

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and The Deparment of Health and Human Services jointly publish a set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. While the next revision is due in January, 2005, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, composed of "prominent experts in nutrition and health," released a draft of the guidelines late in May of 2004 which it will continue to revise for the remainder of the year. This draft was the subject of several newspaper articles. Sally Squires of the Washington Post has written especially helpful summaries. I summarize below the results of these articles:

  • Continue to add healthful foods, such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains, milk products, and meat and other protein sources.
  • Add fiber to your diet in the range of 1 oz. per day.
  • Keep the consumption of foods with cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fatty acids low.
  • Pay attention to eating foods with the proper nutrients, especially vitamins A, C and E as well as folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium. This would include green, leafy vegetables, orange-colored vegetables, tomatoes, onions and beans.
  • Eating fatty, deep-water fish (for its omega-3 fatty acids) can reduce heart disease, at least two servings a week. However, mercury levels in some such fish make eating more a problem.
  • Get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise. People who want to loose weight may even need more. Vigorous aerobic exercise 20 minutes three times a week is beneficial too, as is walking for bone density.
  • The recommendation to limit intake of sugars was dropped from the guidelines. This was controversial on the committee, however, with not everyone agreeing. The Committee agreed that sugars are not as well-regulated by the body as some other foods.
  • Monitor your weight to determine if your current caloric intake is achieving your desired healthy weight, and to know if you can have the occasional "splurge."
  • Reduce your intake of salt.

However, it looks like, to this date, the original food pyramid, developed in 1992, has yet to be revised by the government agencies that are sponsoring it. In fact, the 1992 Food Pyramid is still being used extensively, as in this government website on school lunches.

Revising the Food Pyramid

Several attempts have been made to revise the government-recommended food pyramid. Perhaps the most prestigious of these as been put forth in an article by Walter C. Willett and Meir J. Stampfer, Rebuilding the Food Pyramid, which was published in Scientific American in January, 2003. Quoting from the online summary, the article argues that

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid, introduced in 1992, recommended that people avoid fats but eat plenty of carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, cereal, rice and pasta. The goal was to reduce the consumption of saturated fat, which raises cholesterol levels.
  • Researchers have found that a high intake of refined carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice can wreak havoc on the body's glucose and insulin levels. Replacing these carbohydrates with healthy fats--monounsaturated or polyunsaturated--actually lowers one's risk of heart disease.
  • Nutritionists are now proposing a new food pyramid that encourages the consumption of healthy fats and whole grain foods but recommends avoiding refined carbohydrates, butter and red meat.

The image below is loaded directly from the Scientific American website.