What Is The Food Pyramid And Why It Can Help You Eat Healthier?
When we were children in school, the food pyramid was taught as a good rule of thumb for how to eat well and nourish our bodies. As we get older, keeping that pyramid in mind can present more of a challenge because of how many versions there are of things.
For example, incorporating dairy into your diet grows increasingly difficult because cheeses are more fattening than yogurt or milk. When we are young, we are more likely to simply drink our dairy intake in a glass of milk so it is easier to manage. Although the use of the pyramid can get more confusing, it is still beneficial in understanding how the body works and what constitutes a healthy diet.
What Is The Food Pyramid?
The food pyramid is a visual representation of what food groups we need to incorporate into our diet and what amount of each we need to ingest. The smallest portion of the pyramid will include the foods that are heaviest and most difficult for our bodies to process. This does not mean that we cannot eat these foods, it just means that we need to limit our intake of such foods. Any type of processed sugar or fats will be in this section.
The next levels will be proteins or fats that are healthy fats and good for your body. They are higher in fat and therefore harder for the body to process, but they are adding fats that are beneficial to your good cholesterol, muscle strengthening and other processes for growth and strength that your body needs support to accomplish.
The next level will be the dairy, which is high in fat, but is also high in nutrients like calcium. This is something that needs to be moderated as well because it can cause significant weight gain otherwise, but it is important for bone health to include dairy into your diet.
The next section will include grains and this is a very important part of our diet. Grains contain a lot of nutrients if you opt for natural whole grains instead of processed and enriched grains. Grains also include a lot of carbohydrates, of which there are good and bad just like fats and sugars, and fiber which is good for digestive health. The carbohydrates that are good for you will improve your energy and be broken down easily to support digestion.
The final portion of the pyramid is the most important for our health and wellness, and that is the produce section. This includes all fruits, vegetables, and legumes and it is the one section of the pyramid that will cause major deficits in your health if it is eliminated from your diet. People can be healthy as vegans or vegetarians, but they are not capable of being healthy long-term if they only eat meat and dairy without the balance of produce.
The number of minerals and nutrients in produce is crucial to our well-being and the amount of fiber will do wonders for your digestive health. Produce has healthy carbohydrates and many legumes are high in protein as well. Essentially, if you eliminate any of the higher levels of the pyramid then you may need to pay closer attention to the types of produce that you are eating in order to replace the health benefits of the other food groups. However, you will still be able to live a long and healthy life if you make the effort to replace those things.
Why The Food Pyramid Can Help You Eat Better
The beauty of having the visual representation of the food pyramid is that it takes the guesswork out of where to limit your diet and where you have more flexibility. In other words, the food pyramid can help you improve your eating habits by showing you what kind of food you should eat more of and what to cut back on.
In the age where everyone is juggling a million things at once, it can be a challenge to pay attention to every little detail of our diet every day. If you have kids and work and everything else, you may want to consider keeping a version of the pyramid nearby when you cook or plan your meals for the office. Using the pyramid as a guide to plan your meals can definitely make your life easier as it offers a lot of benefits (learn more here).
Most people admit to being mindless eaters, which means that they eat without a plan or strategy and that can be a dangerous game to play with your health and wellness. Being mindful of what you eat and when you eat will naturally cause you to eat more reasonable portions and change your relationship with food to include more healthy items.
The challenges of portion control are not simply about the totality of what we eat in each meal. The portion of meat that we eat, especially in the developed world, can be extremely detrimental to our health. Countries that eat more produce have statistically lower levels of heart disease and stroke because they are not digesting as much heavy food items that struggle to be broken down.
Having the visual tool to remind us of what we should and should not eat can also be a way to change our relationship with food because we will be more conscious of how to balance those foods higher up on the list with something lower. For example, if you eat a yogurt for a snack in the morning then you may think more consciously of eating an apple or some chopped celery for your afternoon snack to balance it out.
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can feel like work in the beginning, but it doesn’t have to be! Using a tool like the food pyramid can make your life a lot easier. Keep in mind that the food pyramid is not a perfect tool but most people would still benefit from using it, so you may want to give it a try and see what it does for you.