Monday, June 18, 2012

Bermuda Triangle of Nutrition

In the video where Dr. Terry Wahls gave her testimony, she also pointed out how our society eats today, and it was very obvious that our diets today are very different than our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Now that we have a bit of an understanding of what Paleo is, I want to examine what our dietary lifestyle is today and what it is based on. Before we get into it though, I want to apologize for taking so long to post. This post has been particularly difficult for me because I have so much to say, and I don't know where to start. It's taken me some time to get there, but I hope this post finally covers the topic that I feel is the next appropriate topic to discuss. Having said that, I want to apologize if the post is not as carefully written as any previous posts. I wanted to finally get something out there so we can move onto more topics. So let's get started.

As I've mentioned before, so-called researchers within the last century have taken a hypothesis—that eating animal protein and fat, among other things, is harmful and unhealthy—and despite their best biased efforts, they have failed to prove it to be true. (To find the actual studies, reference the book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes—a science writer who actually took the initiative to find all these studies and put them together in this book, along with some very important questions and topics that we must begin to address as a society). Unfortunately, because the so-called researchers reported only data that was in line with their hypothesis, the media, government, and even the medical world believed it, and today, going against these so-called truths is considered 'quackery'. Now, because of the lies that were propagated, the government felt it was their obligation to tell us what to eat, especially when it came to animal fat and protein, so the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) released—among other nutritional guidance publications—a "Food Guide Pyramid" in 1992 (below).

USDA Food Guide Pyramid (1992)

Let's look at the pyramid above and see what it was based on. Simply put, the basis is carbohydrates; this includes bread, grains/cereals, rice, and pasta at a whopping 6 to 11 servings. Vegetables come next at 3-5 servings, followed by fruit at 2-4 servings, then dairy and meat come in at 2-3 servings. Strangely enough, they bundle nuts and beans with meat, although nuts are more like fats and oils, and beans are more like grains (because they're usually starchy). Anyway, last but not least we have a category of fats, oils and sweets, which we are suggested to eat sparingly. Why oils and sweets were categorized together is beyond me, but I'll explain more later. In addition, this picture is so vague, it doesn't even tell me what a 'serving' is.

Is it obvious why the USDA food triangle greatly promotes grains and cereals? Notice the word 'agriculture' in their name. It's certainly not called the "US Department of Nutrition." What does the world agriculture have to do with this, you might ask. Well, as I've mentioned before, our ancestors hunted and gathered their food, but at some point we became more of an agricultural society. We began to settle down and grow our own crops including cereals/grains and also raise domesticated animals instead of having to always hunt wild animals. As our populations grew on this earth, we continued this new agricultural lifestyle. This change to our diets may seem mild, but it was actually pretty radical. We started eating something that we had never really eaten before: bread (grains/cereals), rice, and other carbohydrate-rich foods.

Now, we weren't so much in trouble then as we are now. Today, the USA is the "bread basket" of the world. The US wants to promote eating more of the products we produce. Meat is more expensive and there is not enough for the entire world to eat it copiously. We have to share the limited amount of meat available with the whole world. To grow grains/cereals, on the other hand, is cheaper than to raise animals for meat, so it seems like a simple solution to just eat more grains and cereals which are more readily available, and they are produced mainly in our backyard. As you can see, these reasons and more may have contributed to the creation of the USDA Food Pyramid.

Interestingly enough, they didn't get the 1992 pyramid quite right (go figure), so in 2005, the USDA revised their pyramid (below), but not by very much. They added exercise, and they now seem to promote more dairy. Hmmm, isn't dairy agriculture too? Look for the yellow strip, which represents fats and oils; it isn't even labeled and it is very small. Notice how sweets isn't bundled with it anymore; that's curious... Sweets isn't in the pyramid at all from what I can tell. Also, look at the purple strip which represents meat and protein. Did you notice it is the next thinnest strip after the yellow one (oils/fats)? Both meats and fats are the most deemphasized food groups, and it is probably because the government continues to promote the idea that they are detrimental to our health. What do you still see as highly emphasized, though? You got it: Grains and cereals, etc. Good old carbohydrates...

USDA Food Guide Pyramid (Revised 2005)
So for years now, we've been told to eat large portions of grains and cereals, but we're sicker than ever. I believe this guidance has been one of the main reasons for the "obesity" problem and the myriad of diseases plaguing our daily lives. I digress by making the following observation, but I think it needs to be said. I remember a time when knowing someone with cancer was rare! As time goes on, not only does everyone know at least one person who has had or has cancer, but they know more than one person, and sadly, sometimes it's because they've been diagnosed themselves. It's not even just cancer anymore, but Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Diabetes, Heart Disease, you name it. These have actually been called diseases of civilization, and it's no wonder because they are so much more common now than they were a hundred or more years ago.

I will close this topic, but I will return with more. I'm sure you're dying to know what makes carbohydrates so bad and also what a Paleo Pyramid would look like, so we'll be talking about those topics soon.

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