The food pyramid originally came from the USA and was subsequently adopted by many countries worldwide – in some cases, with local adjustments. The original pyramid, published in 1992 by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), was described as an ingenious invention for easily communicating the elements of healthy eating to the whole population.
The pyramid suggests with images that can be understood even without language skills that certain food groups should be consumed more often, others less often. Also, dividing food into six main groups, it imparts knowledge about food and nutrition. It calls for a varied diet, which is important both for meeting needs and for preventing diseases.
Raise nutritional awareness – observe the nutritional pyramid
The risk of illness caused by improper diet should be reduced, and Austrians should be made more palatable to healthier eating and drinking forms. “We recommend a varied and balanced diet, which is composed according to the image of the food pyramid.”, Dennis Beck, the managing director of the Fonds Gesundes Österreich, explained one of the main objectives of the campaign. The food pyramid illustrates the quantities in which certain food groups should be on the Austrians’ menu plan. The basis of the food pyramid is plant-based foods.
In principle, no food is unhealthy or even “prohibited”. But some things should only be eaten very rarely, others daily and in abundance – such as fruit and vegetables, of which five servings per day are recommended, the same applies to potatoes and grain products. These products form the basis of the pyramid. High up there are fats and oils, of which as little as possible should be consumed, at the top are small “extras” such as sweets, pastries, and salty snacks (chips, etc.).
The classic food pyramid
Proper nutrition keeps you healthy and productive. It should be varied, wholesome, rich in vitamins, and high in fiber. It must not contain too many calories, should be low in fat and cholesterol, but must contain many unsaturated fatty acids and phytochemicals. Doctors and nutritionists recommend this!
You can’t see through anymore? Don’t worry: if you stick to a few rules, you will automatically eat right. The food pyramid shows you how to do it! Anything goes, but it depends on the amount and the right proportion.
The diverse range of foods is divided into “building blocks” of different sizes. The larger a “building block,” the more often foods in this group should be eaten (or the larger the portions should be).
New food pyramid
New food pyramids with new recommendations are currently causing a stir because they are turning a lot of what was previously considered healthy food upside down: the recommendation of plenty of carbohydrates, moderate protein, and low fat is no longer relevant for many scientists. More and more overweight people, diabetics, and cardiovascular patients are the results of this diet.
The food pyramid fluctuates. What was previously considered safe – fruit and vegetables five times a day, a balanced diet, not too much cholesterol, lots of whole grain products, little butter, and chocolate – is called into question by fats, of all things. “Nuts contain a lot of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids,” explains nutrition scientist Sandra Kluge, “which has very positive effects on numerous chronic diseases. That is why there is a debate about whether to position this food lower in the food pyramid in order to give it a higher priority. “
The basis of the new dietary recommendations is the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of the effect foods have on blood sugar. Foods with low glyx are vegetables and fruits, but also high-protein foods such as legumes, nuts, dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. They should be eaten in abundance and are therefore further down the pyramid. The fats and this is new too – belong to the base. If it’s the right ones, such as Fats, such as rapeseed oil and olive oil, do not make you fat, they make you fit. Grain products, especially those made from white flour, such as bread, pasta, rice, and also potatoes, should not be on the menu as often because of their unfavorable glyx and are relegated to the top of the pyramid with the sweets. First experiences are already available: This diet not only keeps you healthy and fit,
Latest findings – adaptation not revolution
Findings from population studies published by renowned nutritionists from Harvard University, Boston USA – above all Walter Willett – showed that different foods within the individual groups in the original pyramid have different effects on the risk of cardiovascular diseases and have had certain types of cancer. This was ultimately why Harvard researchers criticized the classic USDA pyramid and suggested changes.
The placement of the starch products in the base and the oils and fats in the top suggested that fat is generally “bad” and not only “makes you fat” but also promotes the development of cardiovascular diseases.
In the meantime, it has been shown that certain unsaturated fatty acids have beneficial effects, especially for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, foods high in carbohydrates can also be unfavorable if consumed in excess.
It has been shown that ingested foods with a high glycemic index are detrimental to metabolism. The glycemic index corresponds to the extent to which food containing carbohydrates has increased in blood sugar. Dextrose has the highest glycemic index, pulses – with the same amount of carbohydrates – have a comparatively low glycemic index. The Harvard University researchers observed increased signs of the “metabolic syndrome”, ie insulin resistance, increased blood lipids (triglycerides), and too little of the “good” cholesterol (HDL) in people who frequently consumed foods with a high glycemic index. Soft drinks and sweets make a significant contribution to these foods.
The realization also leaked that neither fats nor carbohydrates per se “make you fat,” but that it is much more the number of calories consumed about the calories consumed with exercise. This doesn’t mean that too much fat doesn’t make you fat – one problem with fats, despite this discussion, is their high nutrient density (9 calories per gram) compared to carbohydrates (4 calories per gram). It is a recognized fact that people tend to consume more energy (calories) when the diet is high in energy density.
A food pyramid is thus an important tool in communicating the elements of a healthy diet for everyone – because of the complex relationships between the various nutrients, it is impossible for a pyramid to be entirely “right” or “wrong”. It is beneficial for knowledge transfer if the image of the pyramid remains unchanged as a symbol, but additions or corrections are made in words and images.
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