The new USDA MyPlate diet advice dooms Michelle Obama’s campaign against obesity to fail. If anything, in the world of body fat loss information overload, it is just another special interest diet. It serves the special interests of agribusiness, not of human health. What a shame.
MyPlate – Another $2 Million Down the Tubes
The ChooseMyPlate project has so far cost about $2 million to develop educational materials, a website, and an upcoming educational campaign. Unfortunately, this replacement for the USDA food pyramid is, at best, a pathetically inadequate step forward.
In fact, the best advice on the new website isn’t even depicted on the diagram at all. It is buried in the last line of the recommendations that are listed immediately below the image of the new MyPlate.
I’ve cut and pasted the table from the new website (it is public property, right?) right here so you can see it in its entirety. I’ll comment on the major flaws of MyPlate shortly. For now I’ll just say that the problem of obesity and all of its associated health issues would be a lot smaller if everyone would just follow the recommendation at the very bottom of this table.
Take a look:
Here is a summary of some seemingly good advice. You can get these pointers from almost all nutritionists, doctors, and other misinformed health care professionals.
There is a major flaw in this list. Keep reading to find out what they should be telling you instead. You may be pleasantly surprised.
|●||Enjoy your food, but eat less.|
|●||Avoid oversized portions.|
|Foods to Increase|
|●||Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.|
|●||Make at least half your grains whole grains.|
|●||Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.|
|Foods to Reduce|
|●||Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ― and choose the foods with lower numbers.|
|●||Drink water instead of sugary drinks.|
The best advice…
I’d say that this advice doesn’t go far enough. An improvement would be a list of Foods to Eliminate Completely. If the only item was ‘sugary drinks’ we’d all take a big step toward better weight management and better health.
Starting With the Good News
I don’t want to come across as a nattering nabob of negativism, so I’ll point out some of the good news about replacing the old USDA food pyramid. In case you don’t remember this all-important foundation of dietary recommendations from your government (how could you forget?), here it is in all its glory:
Good-bye to the top and the bottom…
MyPlate has no equivalent to the top of the pyramid: fats, oils (added or not) and sugars (added). Can you believe that added sugars were, up until just a few short months ago, anywhere on a government-recommended diet? Well, they were!
What happened to the bottom of the pyramid – 6 to 11 servings per day from the ‘Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group’? It seems to be gone, which would be good news. Unfortunately, it is still there, cleverly (and poorly) disguised as the new ‘Grains’ food group.
If you are confused about what I am implying about grains – i.e., that they should NOT be included in a recommended diet – then you’re right. See what I’ve got to say about it below.
Biggest Flaws on MyPlate
Flaw #1: GRAINS
Yup. That’s what I said. Let me support this claim with a little biological reasoning, then I’ll offer some modern research about it. My reasoning goes like this:
Grains became a major component of the human diet less than 10,000 years ago, with the advent of agriculture. Human dietary needs evolved long before that, in the absence or near absence of grains. We are simply not adapted to eating a grain-based diet.
Okay, so what’s wrong with grains, you may ask? Plenty! Even wth the so-called good stuff – i.e., whole grains.
Too much grain fiber is an irritant. A couple of scientists think this is a good thing: “When you eat high-fiber foods, they bang up against the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, rupturing their outer covering. What we are saying is this banging and tearing increases the level of lubricating mucus. It’s a good thing.” (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060823093156.htm).
Really? Tearing up cells by rupturing their membranes is a good thing? IBS anyone? I think some of my colleagues ought to get out into the real world more.
A couple of other things: Grains are famous for their toxic anti-nutrients. These include,
Lectins. Lectins are bad proteins. They bind to insulin receptors, bind to human intestinal lining, and they seemingly cause leptin resistance. Resistance to this master fat hormone leads to obesity and deterioration into a full-blown metabolic syndrome. How much fun do you want?
Gluten. At least folks are starting to notice gluten intolerance. This can be so bad that cutting grains out of the diet is like a miracle in health-recovery. And gluten is not just a problem for the ‘intolerant’ among us.
Phytates. These long-chain molecules are crucial for the healthy biology of the plants that product them. Unfortunately for you, they bind to nutrients in your gut and basically make minerals bio-UNavailable.
There is a book-length amount of information in the medical research literature on the topic of why grains are not good for your health. I am not surprised, however, that a federal commission to fight obesity missed this body of work entirely. Are we talking about a federal commission that just may have been influenced by special interests? Yup.
After all, if people actually improved their diets by eliminating grains, what would happen to poor little ol’ Monsanto?
Plenty More Details on Grains
You can make the study of this topic into a hobby or avocation. It’s that big. Barring that, I’ll just get you started on one of the best sources of information on this topic that I know of, at a blog by Mark Sisson, called Mark’s Daily Apple. I suggest that you begin with the following post: The Definitive Guide to Grains. In fact, you can get even more great information if you just search on ‘grains’ at his blog.
Flaw #2: FATS AND OILS
Oops. Did you not notice the fats and oils on MyPlate? Oh, that’s because there aren’t any there at all! We finally see the end point of the paranoia about fats and oils that started with George McGovern’s misguided Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs in the 1970s. This was probably the most influential official body for recommending a reduced-fat diet. It launched the idiotic low-fat food craze.
Now we have apparently lost one of the ‘Big 3’ food groups – fats and oils. This is not to say that fats are not important in the new diet. You just have to hunt for them. I found a small section on ‘Oils’ by scrolling down to the bottom half of the homepage. So oils are there – whew! I did find this quote, though: “Oils are NOT a food group, but they provide essential nutrients.”
Unfortunately, I found even more mindless dogma about fats and oils … such as ‘eat more polyunsaturated fats’ and ‘eat low fat foods’.
By the way, the only prominent mention of fats in the upper half of the homepage is under ‘Foods to Increase’ – and this is only to suggest switching to fat-free or low-fat milk. Also mindless.
In reality, the bottom line is that you should have a substantial amount of dietary fat of the right types to stay healthy, regardless of what Dr. Dean Ornish and his low-fat ilk claim. Here is a little sample of why fats are important (from Mark’s Daily Apple again … good stuff): The Definitive Guide to Fats. This is a great introductory essay on this topic. It is especially important in light of the removal of fats as a food group by the federal FatFascists. (Did I really say that?)
One more thing. You must have heard about essential fatty acids by now. Essential, in this case, means: Eat some or die. Maybe that seems a little overdramatic. Nevertheless, you have to have essential fatty acids in your diet if you want any semblance of good health.
Flaw #3: DAIRY
Let me start with something that I relate to personally: lactose intolerance. (Lactose is otherwise known as ‘milk sugar’.) This not an allergy. It is an enzyme deficiency. I developed it in adulthood, which is typical. A glass of milk for me is a disaster. I am not alone.
Here are a few comments from Medscape on the topic of lactose intolerance that should enlighten you a little more about dairy products (bolding is mine):
Lactose intolerance is a common disorder and is due to the inability to digest lactose into its constituents, glucose and galactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include loose stools, abdominal bloating and pain, flatulence, nausea, and borborygmi. A diagnosis or even the suggestion of lactose intolerance leads many people to avoid milk and/or to consume specially prepared food with digestive aids, adding to health care costs.
The prevalence of primary lactose intolerance varies according to race. As many as 25 percent of the white population (prevalence in those from southern European roots) is estimated to have lactose intolerance, while among black, Native American, and Asian American populations, the prevalence of lactose intolerance is estimated at 75-90 percent.
It seems richly ironic, don’t you think, that we have our first African-American first lady, who endorses a dietary recommendation that is detrimental to 75-90 percent of the African-American population in the U.S.? Awesome!
By the way, you may wonder about how to get your dietary calcium if you reduce or cut out dairy. This points to a myth about dairy being a good source of calcium. It is not. It never has been. The dairy industry has pulled a fast one on you there. Better sources of calcium include almost any green leafy vegetable. You can even eat powdered oyster shells, or any other source of calcium carbonate (aka, rocks), and get plenty of calcium into your system as long as you eat them with other foods. No kidding.
Lots of toxins also show up in milk, perhaps the worst being alflatoxins. Aflatoxins come from molds that infect grains that are fed to milk cows. These are very nasty toxins! There is almost no way to avoid them. They are allowed in all commercial milk supplies. A little story: In the 1970s, right after I arrived in Arizona, the Arizona Dairy Association had a little PR problem regarding aflatoxins in our milk here. Too many commercial samples exceeded the maximum allowable level of aflatoxins. So what they did was redefine the allowable amount to a much higher level. Problem solved.
The major milk protein, casein, must be the cheapest protein on Earth. It is in everything, including ‘non-dairy’ creamers of all kinds. (Isn’t that an oxymoron?) Casein is not so hot as a source of dietary protein. It may even cause health problems, if we are to believe what T. Colin Campbell describes in his book, The China Study, on the role of casein in the development of liver cancer. Just a thought.
Fruits are good for you, of course. Some are much better for you than others. Unfortunately, some are the dietary equivalent of candy. Recommendations on the MyPlate diet do not provide any direction on which fruits are preferable. I would hope that the educational materials that are under development for the MyPlate project will make that clear. We’ll see.
I’d say the same thing about vegetables, especially when it comes to distinguishing the low dietary value of belowground vegetables, which are generally starchy storage organs, vs. the high dietary value of aboveground vegetables. For example, green and other colorful veggies are far, far better than potatoes. This kind of information is not yet available for the MyPlate diet. I hope it appears soon.
Sidebar: The Myth About Carbohydrates
The myth is that you must have carbohydrates in your diet. Actually, you don’t. Your body can make all the carbohydrate it needs from fat and protein. This is well-known biochemically. Indeed, Inuit cultures have historically lived for extensive periods each year without consuming any carbohydrate whatsoever. No fruits or veggies at all. They enjoy great health anyway. They don’t even suffer from vitamin C deficiency, even though they get none – zero, nada, zip, zilch – in their diet during these periods. This is an interesting story by itself. I’ll hold off on explaining that one at some other time. For now, I’ll just reiterate that you don’t need to consume carbohydrates at all.
This means that the only food groups that you MUST consume are … drumroll … protein and fats. Indeed, the importance of fats is so well-established that it is the subject of one of the most important books that I have ever found on the topic, by ‘Dr. Oil’ himself, Udo Erasmus: Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill: The Complete Guide to Fats, Oils, Cholesterol and Human Health. You can find it online at Amazon and other booksellers. I also suggest that you see what this is all about by visiting Dr. Erasmus’ website: http://www.udoerasmus.com/.
Then take a wild guess on what he thinks about the feds eliminating fats as a food group.
How to Eat: Go Primal
All you have to do is think about what our pre-agriculture diet might have been and follow that. Actually, you don’t have to come up with it yourself, since plenty of other thoughtful folks have already done it for you. One fellow whom I have mentioned in this post already is Mark Sisson. His blog is one of the best, and he makes the most sense to me from a scientific perspective. He also writes well and explains things clearly.
One final time, then, I will send you to Mark’s Daily Apple. This time check out what he describes as the most important way for you to eat, for all the right reasons and for getting all the results that you want for your body. Start here: The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan.
I know that I have given you a lot to mull over. I’ve got a library of other books, articles, and research publications that I could suggest to you. For now, just take in the main notion that I’ve put forth here: Federal dietary recommendations, no matter what celebrity endorses them, are at best inadequate, verging on downright bad. Your best bet is to ‘Go Primal’ as much as you can.
A Semi-Political Comment
Regarding Obamacare, or any other healthcare (aka, sickness care) plan that you can imagine or have heard of: Stay out of it. Estimates are that 75 percent of healthcare costs in the U.S. are related to lifestyle choices. Bad ones, apparently. This is a growing anchor on the American economy.
Avoid personal involvement in this whole mess. Make good choices for your health and stick to them. This is good for you, your family, your community, your country, and your world.
That should cover it.