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Is It Realistic To Maintain A Food Pyramid Diet?

Last updated May 5, 2017

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

BruceBlaus

The Food Guide Pyramid, released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nearly two decades ago, has served as the prevailing icon of healthy eating. The proposal of the food guide pyramid led to an illustration of the basic elements of a nutritious diet.


The Food Guide Pyramid, released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nearly two decades ago, has served as the prevailing icon of healthy eating. The proposal of the food guide pyramid led to an illustration of the basic elements of a nutritious diet. But, is this design representative of the new dietary advances that have been uncovered in research that connects food nutrition with health?

The shape of the divisions in the pyramid immediately suggests that some choices should be eaten often and others only occasionally. The divisions are representative of major food groups in the diet such as fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, fats and oils, grains, and dairy. The large breadbasket at its base refuses to explain that whole grains, like whole wheat or brown rice, are healthier than whole grains. The tip of the pyramid displaying the fat and oils section ignored the benefits of plant oils and recent research displaying that a low-fat diet can worsen blood cholesterol levels and hinder weight maintenance. Nutritious proteins, like fish, poultry, beans, and nuts, were categorized with unhealthy proteins like red and processed meats. They also overemphasized the importance of dairy in the diet.

The original food pyramid was replaced in 2005 with MyPyramid, a novel version with a different layout. The old pyramid was rotated on its side to create the new symbol. Yet, the new illustration was vague and still lacked explanatory text or pictures to provide support for their distributions of essential nutrients. The widths of the bands were indicative of the amount you should consume in your diet. However, without visiting the website, there were no explanations as to how to approach the diet.

In 2011, the USDA exchanged its slandered and flawed food pyramid with a new version, called MyPlate, emphasizing a heavy fruit and vegetable intake. It was judged as an improvement, but still falls short on advice for nutrition and healthy diets. The Harvard School of Public Health devised an alternative to MyPlate known as the Healthy Eating Pyramid and Plate. It looks like the older models only in shape, but rather reflects the extensive research that has been led over the last 20 years, which has altered the definition of healthy eating.

Given the extensive alterations of the pyramid that have been necessary over the years, it is certain that following the food pyramid when dieting is not sensible. Consider using the pyramid and plate created by the board at the Harvard School of Public Health. It emphasizes the needs for whole grains, healthy fats and oils, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy. They also emphasize the recent research on the dangers of red meat, processed meat, and butter, and to use them sparingly.

Diet suggestions and fads are often created without little thought to their subsequent impact on human health. When your health is involved, you should be concerned with choosing the most practical and updated approach for nutritious eating. Talk to a nutrition expert about sustainable and practical methods for healthy eating beyond pyramid recommendations. 

References:

The Problems with the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPyramid [Internet]. Harvard School of Public Health [cited 2015 Jan 29]. Available from: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mypyramid-problems/

Food Pyramids and Plates: What Should You Really Eat? [Internet]. Harvard School of Public Health [cited 2015 Jan 29]. Available from: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/pyramid-full-story/#The-Problems-with-MyPyramid-and-MyPlate

My Plate [Internet]. United States Department of Agriculture [cited 2015 Jan 29]. Available from: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/about.html

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Dixon, L. B., Cronin, F. J., & Krebs-Smith, S. M. (2001). Let the pyramid guide your food choices: capturing the total diet concept. The Journal of nutrition, 131(2), 461S-472S.

Davis, C. A., Britten, P., & Myers, E. F. (2001). Past, present, and future of the Food Guide Pyramid. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 101(8), 881.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 5, 2017
Last updated: May 5, 2017