Wednesday July 11, 2012
New food pyramid
TELL ME ABOUT...
By DR Y.L.M.
I WAS brought up with a food pyramid that has carbohydrates (rice, bread, cereal, noodles, pasta, etc) at the bottom, and fats, oils and sweets to be used sparingly at the very top. You know the one. To this day, you can see it on the backs of biscuit cans. But now I hear there is a new food pyramid. Tell me more about this.
Yes, there’s a new food pyramid, except that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently calls it a food “plate”. But first, let’s talk about the old food pyramid so we can understand the contrast between the old and new.
The old food pyramid is divided into four tiers. The bottom tier, as you pointed out, has carbohydrates in it. Bread, cereal, rice, pasta, noodles, crackers — basically anything that is high in carbohydrates goes into this group. You are supposed to eat six to 11 servings of it per day, and mind you – one serving is NOT one plate. In fact, one Malaysian plate probably contains four rice “servings”. So the term “servings” is very misleading for most people. The tier just directly above it is the fruit and vegetable group. All manner of fruits and vegetables go into this, and you are supposed to consume two to three servings of vegetables, and two to three servings of fruits per day.
The tier above this is the meat, poultry, eggs and nuts group, as well as the milk, cheese and yoghurt group. You are supposed to consume two to three servings of the meats, and two to three servings of the dairy products respectively.
And the highest tier belongs to the fats, oils and sweets group. And yes, this includes butter, cakes, and confections like chocolate. Consume these sparingly.
I have seen food pyramids that encourage us to consume as much of the bottom tier as possible. Does that mean I can eat as much rice as I like?
No. That’s why the old food pyramid is misleading, and new data has caused nutritionists the world over to relook it. Consuming too much carbs can only make you obese. Anyhow, people were never really sure how much to consume of each category in the old pyramid.
For example, during breakfast: one bowl of cereal with milk, an apple or banana (not both), and two pieces of toast with butter. This will equate to one serving of dairy, one serving of fruit, two servings of carbs, and little fat.
In actuality, there’s protein in milk as well, and this food pyramid equation doesn’t take account of that. And it’s quite a lot to eat for breakfast. Dairy products also sneak their way into all sorts of preparations, as does sugar. And what about sauces? These contain a whole plethora of oils, sugars, artificial colouring, preservatives and carbs – sometimes in very rich portions as well.
So, what about the new food pyramid?
It’s best to call them the new food pyramids! There have been many versions. In 2005, the US FDA decided to update the food pyramid, and this made it even more confusing! Now, one side of the pyramid had stairs climbing to the top of it to denote that you must do physical activity for a healthy lifestyle. Instead of tiers, there were coloured sections streaming from the top of the pyramid vertically, all containing the food groups from the old pyramid.
Confused yet? At around this time, high glycaemic index carbs were seen as the enemy, and it was recommended that 50% of all grain intake should be wholegrains. (Ditch that white bread and take multigrain instead!)
But it was problematic as well. The US FDA recommended a 2,000 calorie per day intake (that’s plenty much if you ask me, especially if you are sedentary and older), and 50% of these calories came from carbs. This is way too much carbohydrates for most people, and will only likely make you overweight and obese.
What is the new food plate then?
The food plate is a square plate that signifies something you are more likely to look at when you sit at a table (instead of a pyramid). On this plate are four different coloured sections, and there’s even a cup for “dairy” beside it.
The food plate itself is divided into four different sections: vegetables, fruits (these two form half the plate), grains and proteins (the other half). Note the grain section has been cut down significantly from the old food pyramids.
It’s fairly confusing as well, as there are no mentions of serving sizes, but they basically want you to look at your plate as such. Which means only one-quarter of your full plate should be filled with rice/bread/noodles/pasta, one-quarter with protein (chicken/meat/beans/tofu), and the rest should be vegetables and fruits (like tomatoes). Basically, just don’t overeat. Try not to take second helpings. Try to make your grains whole grains. Switch to low-fat milk. And drink water instead of any drink with sugar.
Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health advice, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail email@example.com. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.