If you eat based on the USDA Food Pyramid, you may have a weight problem. More problematic with the USDA Food Pyramid is you may have other health problems like Type II diabetes, increased risk of heart disease and/or high cholesterol. Here is why this food pyramid is not recommended for optimal health.
At the top they ask you to limit fats but not all fats are bad. In fact, many plant based fats benefit the heart such as fats found in nuts, olive oils and coconut oils. They suggest that you need your protein from meat, this is also not true. Unfortunately, if you get your protein from red meat you also take in high levels of cholesterols and saturated fats which are not heart healthy. There is no mention of beans or nuts, which are great sources of protein and heart healthy as well. They state that dairy is necessary which is also not true. They believed this was necessary based on its source of calcium for strong bones. You do need calcium in your diet, but dairy is not the best source of calcium. You can get plenty of calcium from spinach, broccoli, oranges, kale, almonds, sesame seeds and figs. Most horrifying for me is they only recommend 2-3 servings of vegetables and fruit verses starchy carbs at 6-11 servings per day. You cannot take in 6-11 servings of pasta, bread and potatoes and expect to maintain a healthy weight. Especially since those items are usually topped with sugar and/or saturated fat food like pasta sauces or butter. Not to mention these simple sugars break down in the body quicker resulting a higher glycemic value and creating havoc with insulin levels.
Ironically the foods protected by the government are simple carbs (grains & sugars), dairy and red meat. The government supplements many crops such as corn, wheat, soy & dairy to the tune of about $20 billion a year (source: USDA). They are not the healthiest choices in any diet yet this is why chips, bread, red meat, milk and sugar are so cheap to consume. It is also why those items are often more affordable than eating plant based. Vegetables, nuts and beans are not supplemented by the government so you pay real value.
In the old days, way back when we used animals for transportation, the rich were fat and the poor were thin. In today’s society where vegetables are costlier than bread and bologna we see the rich are thin while the poor are suffering with obesity and the negative health effects of obesity. Individuals and families who can afford to make these changes are seeing increased health and lower weight but these changes are costly. Healthy changes are financially challenging for low income populations.
There have been attempts to implement new pyramids by Harvard and other nutrition based organizations but the standards of the old pyramid are ingrained in everyone’s understandings and beliefs about what foods are good and what to avoid. Please consider the new pyramids as a starting point to make necessary changes to your overall health and maintaining a healthy weight. Long term health is a worthwhile goal.