Wait, wait – what?? How can the pyramid we’ve all grown up with and trusted our own and our children’s nutrition with be leading us astray – away from health and toward disease?
It’s simple: OPTIMAL, 100% HEALTH WAS NEVER THE PYRAMID’S GOAL. Let me break it down for you:
Below is a simple scale of health with the top being Wellness or 100% Health and the bottom being Death or 0% Health.
100% Health = OPTIMAL HEALTH = Wellness
50% Health = Symptom Free = Not Well!
30% Health = Express Symptoms = Sick
0% Health = Dead
Got it? Good, but what does this have to do with the Pyramid?
EVERYTHING. You see, the Pyramid was designed for one thing: to keep us from experiencing symptoms in the short term. It wasn’t designed to keep us functioning optimally and experiencing 100% health! You see the Red Line? That = 40% Health. Let’s say that this is the percentage of health where we as humans start exhibiting symptoms. Well, the government’s cute little pyramid was designed to keep us above that line, but as you can see from the above scale of health, simply being above that line does not mean that we are even close to optimal health!
Let’s go deeper - these guidelines are based on RDA’s (Recommended Daily Allowances) of specific nutrients. It’s a pretty bold assumption for us to believe we have figured out EVERYTHING (vitamin, mineral, phytochemical and the next other nutrient that we haven’t figured out yet) that a whole food produced by Mother Nature contains - there’s just no way we can make that claim. Then the RDA’s are levels of only the specific nutrients that have been determined to keep 95%+ of the population symptom-free.
Here’s the catch: this was never established with a gold standard for health in mind. As I said before, the goal of the pyramid is to keep us from getting symptoms, not to make us truly well people.
Questions for you:
If you wanted to be the best golfer in the world, who would you study?
If you wanted to be the richest person in the world, who would you make your role model?
If you want to be a healthy person in this world, wouldn’t you want to study/model yourself after a group of people who are the healthiest ever to have lived?
Is your answer “yes?” Then tell me now: who are the healthiest people ever to have walked this planet? “Who?” you say?
I’m glad you asked:
ENTER MY BELOVED HUNTER GATHER (HG) TRIBES, PAST AND PRESENT:
Humans living in tribes that eat solely what they hunt and gather, move like wild human animals, and work together in positive, loving, encouraging and compassionate environments live long lives free of any chronic (lifestyle) diseases. That’s right, they have no diabetes, no Crohn’s, no cancer, no high blood pressure, no high cholesterol, no strokes, no heart disease, no Irritable Bowel Syndrome, no heart attacks, or any of the other host of diseases responsible for killing 75% of Americans!
Let’s look at the nutrient densities of what typical HG’s eat compared to the average American:
Eaton, Eaton & Konner. Plaeolithic nutrtion revisited: a twelve year retrospective on its nature and implications. Eur J. of Clin Nutr. 1997: 51;207-216.
Estimated daily Paleolithic intake of selected nutrients compared to RDA and Current U.S. Intake:
Vit/Min (mg/d) Paleo Intake RDA Current US
Vit A 17.2 4.8-6 7.02-8.48
Vit E 32.8 8-10 7-10
Vit C 604 60 77-109
Iron 87.4 10-15 10-11
Zinc 43.4 12-15 10-15
Calcium 1956 800-1200 750
Sodium 768 500-2400 4000
Potassium 10,500 3500 2500
Fiber g/d 104 20-30 10-20
Energy (k/cal/d) 3000 2200-2900 1750-2500
Pretty sizeable difference, wouldn’t you say?!
Shockingly, two of the Food Groups (Dairy and Grains) on the 5-Group Pyramid were rarely consumed (if at all) by our HG ancestors. The fact that Dairy and Grains play so prominent a role in the Pyramid is the result of much political lobbying, not scientific research.
I know it is difficult to live as a HG in our current social model; however, when we have them as a gold standard for 100% Health and Wellness, at least now we can start mimicking as much of their lifestyle as possible.
1. Eating natural foods from Mother Nature (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and healthy meats) and not that processed stuff that our government subsidizes, making a Pop Tart cheaper than a head of broccoli and encouraging our citizens to become sicker and sicker.
2. Moving, sweating and panting on a regular basis (Functional Fitness), and not just walking the recommended 30 min a day. Our HG ancestors burned the equivalent energy of walking ~9 miles each day. If that’s optimal, 30 min is better than nothing, but we’re delusional if we think that is all we need.
3. Positive, loving, caring environments with lots of encouragement, recognition and positive self talk (affirmations and goal setting don’t hurt either).
Back to the Food Pyramid - here is the best Food Guide Symbol Design I have found in my research. Print it out and put on the fridge, the cupboard, the pantry, and anywhere else you need help making choices that will lead you toward optimal health.
Most of all, please remember wellness is a journey, not a destination – just do a little better tomorrow than you did today. Guilt has no place in this wellness lifestyle; there are no failures - only feedback. Each food choice is a new way to bathe your cells in life-giving nutrients. “Progression, not perfection” is what Dr. Franson always says. Wellness eating is more expensive than consuming processed food, but not as expensive as chemotherapy – and it feels waaaay better! So, keep at it, stay positive, and ask for help if you need it, because your wife, husband, kids, grandkids, friends, work, and society need you. And there is NO other way to get healthy.
You can do it
It is worth it
I BELIEVE IN YOU!
Fight 4 Health,
Dr. Nicholas Araza DC CCWP