Food Pyramids are dumb. Do you go with the US food pyramid? Certainly not. How about the zone diet? The paleo diet? Vegetarian, vegan? What about Mediterranean? The Irish food pyramid? Where does it end? Let’s start with some basic truths.
1. No two people on this planet are identical. We have unique biology, genetics, activity levels, habitats, and interests.
2. Different nutrients are required in different amounts by different people. If i am ill or have digestive problems i may need large amounts of nutrients that are easily digestible. You may work outside in a cold climate and need a high supply of animal foods. As a general guideline it would appear that in colder climates people need more protein/fat as well as people doing intense strength training. More carbs/sugars are needed by people in hotter tropical climates and people more engaged in endurance type of exercise.
3. Your nutrition CHANGES. You have “vegan” people living in california on a diet of raw fruits and vegetables that may take a trip to alaska. The temperature may drop 50 degrees but their dogma on what they think they should eat is “locked in”. So maybe they stick with their fruits/veggies thinking this is best for them while everyone else is eating plenty of meat and fish.
Having a locked in food pyramid for yourself makes life extremely rigid. It uses your mind over your intuition. The problem here is that big corporations, chemicals, and processed foods and chemicals have pressed override on our senses. Our sense of smell is constantly messed with using things like perfumes, colognes, body wash, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, smog, etc. The sense of smell does not work like it should. Also, there are “fake foods” and chemicals that are tricking our taste buds. Sugar, MSG, aspartame, fried foods, and a barrage of others make certain foods addicting. (I dare you to eat ONE Oreo cookie.) The problem with the food pyramids is that they are so nice to look at. We like graphical representations. They are easy to remember and easy to look at.
So how do you figure out what your OWN food pyramid is?
1. Eat a whole foods based diet. Cut out the junk (processed foods, sugar, fried food, pasteurized dairy, table salt, boxed foods.)
2. Cut out the things that are skewing your own senses. Opt for natural soaps, colognes, deodorants, candles, use essential oils instead of air fresheners, etc.
3. Often it can be helpful to find out your genetics/background. If you come from a long line of Native Americans odds are you will fare well on a similar diet.
4. Let your body take you for a ride. It will generally tell you what it needs at any given moment. One thing i think the food pyramids can do is give you a good gauge of approximately where you are on a daily basis. For instance, for me, the “zone-diet” food pyramid is the closest thing to how i currently eat. Now i’m not afraid to have a day like a carnivore if i have done a ton of strength training. I’m also not afraid to have a day like a vegetarian if im not feeling well and don’t want a bunch of heavy food. So use them as guidelines to see where you are at, not where you MUST be at all times. And don’t let your friends or family dictate what you should or shouldn’t be eating. Some friends are mowing through pizzas and beer every night. Don’t feel like you have to do this too.
5. Be aware that your body may change over time. If I was a competitive bodybuilder maybe the Paleo diet with tons of animal products, meats/fats would be great for me. Then i stop competing and all of a sudden all that meat is bogging my system down. So maybe i end up changing to a more balanced approach with more fruits and vegetables.
So don’t get sucked into these “food pyramids.” These are just guidelines. They do change. Don’t let anybody tell you this is the only way for you to eat. All of these people are trying to create a healthy way to eat, often they are just skewed by their own experiences. So if you want, find the one that most closely appeals to your own personal tastes and use it as a guideline. Just don’t let it dictate what your body wants =)