We read so much about what is good for us, then it is not good for us, more research is conducted and we find out that now we need to change our eating habits and style again, and so it continues. You would think that we would all be thin. But that does not seem to be the case. Studies have shown that the populations (of western societies) have grown heavier and less healthy in the last decade. Some researchers call our present situation a form of high-tech malnutrition.
Researchers have gained critical insights into diet and health over the years. They claim that the USDA's pyramid seems to be flawed. The original Food Guide Pyramid is as follows:
- Milk, yogurt, cheese
- Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts
- Bread, cereal, rice and pasta
Looks like a good, well-balanced diet, does it not? No, apparently this pyramid seems to have some controversial features; it encourages the use of calorie-rich vegetable oils and discourages eating potatoes and white rice. The USDA's pyramid implies that all fats are dangerous and most carbohydrates are safe. In contrast to this finding, more recent research has shown that carbohydrates can be as deadly as fats.
Another pyramid of recent origins, devised by Dr. Walter Willett and other staff at the Harvard School of Public Health, promotes the message, "Eat, drink and be healthy."
This new pyramid is called "The Healthy Eating Pyramid;" it breaks up groups of fats or carbohydrates or proteins to highlight the best and worst sources of those nutrients
Scientists have known since the 1960's that the fat in red meat and dairy products can raise cholesterol levels and promote coronary disease. Studies have shown that unlike butter and lard, the oils found in fish, nuts and vegetables help protect against heart disease.
For some time now, food-makers have realized the potential of low-fat processed foods. Cereal grains are much more appealing when they are puffed, sweetened and put into a box with a picture on the front and a toy inside, and you can charge more. Low-fat cakes, cookies and snacks flooded the market in the early 1990's, and consumers simply added them to what they were already eating. Consumers assumed that anything low in fat must be harmless. While the government health organization promoted lean meats and low-fat dairy products, it neglected to think of snacks.
The calories and the way carbohydrates are digested are the problems. Whole grains break down slowly in the digestive system, but refined grains flood into the bloodstream as glucose. If the glucose is not used to fuel activity, the body produces a burst of insulin which goes out of circulation and goes into fat and muscle cells for storage. A diet rich in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars can erode the system. Cells become more resistant to insulin and force the body to produce it in even greater amounts. Eventually the system breaks down and results in diabetes and fosters heart disease. An occasional glucose surge can be alright for a lean, active person, but it adds fat to an inactive body.
Weight management is critical. Daily exercise and weight control are basic to good health. For most people the best strategy is to boycott junk food. If you give up processed foods in favor of whole foods, you can shed several hundred calories a day. According to Dr. Willette, even the baked potato is a better nutritional bargain than almost anything that comes in a package. A baked potato with its skin on provides a full belly, vitamins, minerals, and fiber - 150 calories. Whereas a bag of chips can carry about 500 calories.
Eat plenty of vegetable - the USDA endorses them. When you eat plenty of vegetables, the healthful diet starts to look different. The Asian diet and the traditional Mediterranean diet abound in fish, nuts and olive oil, and both the Asian and Mediterranean diets are considered models of good eating. Both diets rely on plants and fishes for fat. Both include some refined grains, but neither treats cinnabuns as a food group.
You need to devise an eating plan that embraces healthy cuisines and discourages excess food intake. You can enjoy good carbohydrates (whole-grain foods) and good fats (plant oils). Fast-burning carbohydrates are contained in red meat. In the Healthy Eating Pyramid, nuts and legumes are at the top of the hierarchy, followed by fish, poultry and eggs. Dairy products can be optional if replaced by a calcium supplement.
There are critics of the Healthy Eating Pyramid, but it is considered a definite step in the right direction by many. It may take more than a healthy pyramid to improve your diet, but if you are aware of the facts and are aware that eating well is more fun than eating badly, it is a start in the right direction.
So, after all the research, new discoveries, and controversies, what should we do? My suggestions is to stay away from prepared, packaged foods and "Eat, drink and be healthy!"
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