Food Pyramid

What is the Food Pyramid?
By: Dr. Barry Ramo, M.D., FACC

Q: I find the dietary recommendations are becoming more and more confusing.  For years I was told eat more starches and less fat and now I understand that there may be a new food pyramid.  What are your current recommendations?

A: You are absolutely right the recommendations have become muddled.  I think the old food pyramid will be toppled in favor of a new one. In the early ‘90s the food pyramid was published by the United States Department of Agriculture.  This pyramid told us that starches were good and fats were bad.  These new guidelines stimulated the food industry to create a massive number of low fat products..  Suddenly snack foods appeared which were very high and carbohydrates but fat-free. Despite all this low fat fare, Americans got fatter, developed more diabetes and we sell the rate of heart disease and stroke fail to decline

What’s wrong with carbohydrates?  Not all carbohydrates are bad but simple sugars and refined starches seem to be. The high concentrations of simple sugars and refined grain products spike our blood sugar levels.  That in turn stimulates the production of insulin.  Refined grain foods into the bloodstream to sugar or glucose.  If the sugar isn’t immediately used to fuel activity the body produces a burst of insulin to Harriet out of our circulation and into fat and muscle sulfur storage of diet rich in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars leads to cells becoming increasingly resistant to insulin forcing the body to produce more.  Eventually, the pancreas which is the organ that produces insulin wears out and diabetes results.  Over the past 20 years we’ve seen an enormous increase in the incidence of adult onset diabetes.

Dr. Walter Willett a researcher at Harvard school of public health wrote a book called Eat Drink and Be Healthy which based on considerable research describes a new kind of food permit.  The basic premise it is that the base of the German has two important ingredients regular exercise.  And maintaining a normal body weight.  The new permit recognizes that there are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates as well as good and bad fats.

The good carbohydrates come primarily from whole-grain foods.  Refined grain foods such as cereals, pasta and bread and spike our BLOOD sugar levels.  This leads to insulin resistance and the extra BLOOD sugar turns into fat..  The best substitute our whole-grain foods.  There are many choices whole-grain wheat bread instead of standard white bread.  You have to check the label that indicates whole-grain is the first item listed.  There are some very good whole-grain pastas.  Brown rice is easy to make and substitute for white rice.  Additionally barley products are healthful.

The second finding is recognizing that there are some good kinds of fats.  These are monounsaturated fats such as canola oil or olive oil but peanut and other vegetable oils are also healthful.  These mono and polyunsaturated fats will actually reduce your bad cholesterol levels.

Similar to the old health permit there is an emphasis on fruits and vegetables be issued beaten in abundance.  Nuts and legumes are also healthful. You should also get daily calcium supplement which you can get from dairy products as well as taking a calcium supplement.

The diet emphasizes fish poultry and eggs as sources of protein.  What you should have sparingly are red meats pasta and potatoes.  Also included in this group would be white bread and refined starches.

The standard food permit clearly has not improved our health.  Recent studies suggest that people who followed this term and did not too any better than those who did not whereas Dr. Willett”s group found that those who followed the new peer amid type diet had a 40 percent lower risk for cardiovascular disease.

This diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet which emphasizes fruits and vegetables and monounsaturated fats like olive oil.

Remember that at the base of all of this is regular exercise in making sure that the amount of energy that you take and is the same as that you utilize.

Finally you should not be confused into thinking that this new peer amid is the same as the Atkins diet.  It’s not the Atkins diet is not a healthy diet and it promotes a state of ketosis and contains high amounts of the bad kinds of saturated fat.  On the other hand there is a kernel of truth in the diet and it emphasizes reducing the amount of carbohydrate.

As cardiologist, I find myself talking about the same diet that I talked about 10 years ago which was one that was rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat.  What is changed is the de-emphasis on starches that are high and refined starches and simple sugars.

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