The classic graphical symbol for dietary needs has been around for quite a while, but how well does it reflect caveman sensibilities?
Anyone who has ever read about nutrition is probably familiar with the food pyramid. It’s a graphical representation of basic nutrition, dividing types of food into categories.
In most versions, the bottom of the pyramid shows the types of food recommended to be consumed more often. Those at the top are meant to be eaten sparingly.
Modern depictions are often a bit fancier in terms of the imagery used, but the principle remains the same.
Despite the popularity of such pyramids, they all have one big issue: they do not really promote a healthy eating plan.
The original versions, in particular, do not reflect the latest research into dietary practices. Instead, they exhibit the natural tensions that come into play when a government agency dedicated to healthy eating habits competes for influence with food producers far more interested in their bottom line.
Of course, the folks at the USDA deserve some credit for trying. Their most recent report on nutrition advocates moving more towards a plant-based diet and keeping an eye on protein intake to include healthier options, such as fish or nuts, in place of red meat and eggs.
But from a health and wellness perspective, the improvements still fall short of the mark. For those convinced of the general benefits of the Caveman Diet, the pyramid is still filled with options that can be detrimental to human health in both the short- and long-term.
For starters, the USDA has not come down hard on refined grains. It still promotes bread, rice, cereal and similar processed starches as staples of the recommended diet, filling up half of the grains category.
That’s especially bad, because altering grains from their natural state reduces their health benefits considerably. The body doesn’t quite know how to handle them and treats them like sugar, leading to increased health dangers like obesity.
That should not come as a surprise. After all, as humanity was evolving items like Wonder Bread were obviously not part of the daily diet.
The USDA also doesn’t go against processed meats as unhealthy options, and the continued heavy emphasis on dairy (“Got Milk?”) can also be counterproductive from a health perspective.
A Paleo diet food pyramid might look different. Natural proteins might be on the bottom, with fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains occupying the remaining slots.
After all, that’s what nature provided our ancestors, and now increasingly research is showing that this may well be the best eating plan for modern humans, too.
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