How to Understand the Food Pyramid


Back in what seems like ancient days, the 70s was when I was young, impressionable and still in school, it was drilled into our heads the proper manner one should eat and there was to be no discussion or debate – this was for your own good because the government said so! What was this pearl of wisdom handed down to us for memorization? 4-4-3-2 or the four food groups where you eat 4 in the fruits and vegetable group, 4 in the milk group, 3 in the meat group, and 2 in the grain group.

Between sometime when they were drilling this into our heads and the realization that this same generation was getting bigger and wider, they thought it was best to re-think what was best for the people. Then they came up with the Food Pyramid.

One may argue and debate the validity of the Food Pyramid, but this is what researchers have concluded in their estimation as a “balanced” diet. Before even the 4-4-3-2 scheme and even today, people tended to naturally eat foods that are easily available and they can afford it.

A farmer in the 1860s would have had access to a lot more food but did a lot of manual labor, therefore, their breakfast could consist of mounds of bacon, sausage, biscuits, hash browns, and eggs without the same penalty to a person who lives in New York City in the year 2000 who is unemployed and stays on the computer all day.

People in countries plagued by drought are obviously malnourished, yet ironically most obese people in the US are labeled equally malnourished due to their being unable to afford the quality foods and instead opting for cheap and fast foods. One’s diet usually ended up as a result of their location and socio-economic status. Whether it was proper or not has always been a matter of debate.

When people are more accustomed to growing their own fruits and vegetables or live closer to farms or have greater incomes, they tend to buy and eat more in this category. When people are not in this position, they tend to buy and eat less. In countries where genetically modified foods are approved, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables is less expensive giving more people access to what they probably could not afford in countries where GM foods are banned.

[However, we do not know enough about the long term results of GM foods to say if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but in the short term it does allow more people to eat, and to keep starving people hungry is not cool. What we don’t know is if this will lead to cancer, other illnesses, birth defects, or if tampering with DNA of plants and/or animals will cause a biological backlash.]

If you live in a city and are barely scraping by paycheck to paycheck, sometimes getting the fruits and vegetables may seem as unimportant as paying a bill. Therefore under the government approved scheme you are not eating a balanced diet and will suffer ill effects. But is it really so bad if you only eat half of each of these groups with half of the calorie load? Isn’t that still a balanced diet?

This goes the same for the rest of the categories of foods. If you live in an area where you have easy access to any of the foods in the group, you will eat them. If you don’t, then those foods will not be in your diet.

The light of how we should or should not eat is always changing. Take it with a grain of salt. If you listen to the Atkins or Sugar Buster people, they would laugh in your face if you mention this Food Pyramid as the proper way to eat, yet these programs have proven a sort of success in popularity and results. Other diet plans from the past have had the same popularity and results, yet still, deviate from this pyramid.

All those diets have proven is for any short term time, you will not suffer any ill effects by depriving yourself of one or more food groups because, in the end, you are cutting calories and allegedly exercising as part of the plan. No one follows these plans for life unless it is for a medical reason such as a diabetic who must completely cut out sugars, for instance.

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