10 March 2012

The food pyramid put on its proper base.

As a little kid I did quite well in school. I still remember many things I learned in class while I forgot about other school things which other people remember well. (For instance, I don't recognize old school mates even tho they remember me well.)

One thing I still remember from school is how healthy eating is supposed to be done. Here's the food pyramid as I was taught it in middle school:

Just because I like pretty pictures, here's another one, without the labels:

Because I was so indoctrinated by school I always remembered this when planning my own groceries and meals. Additionally, the idea of having one starchy thing at the base (bread, pasta, or potatoes) was always reinforced by the meals that my family made or that I found in school dining halls, canteens, restaurants, and fast food places everywhere. Even when I went to the far east, the principle was just the same, only using rice at the base. (And of course also noodles, and steamed buns, and the famous bîng 饼.)
But as I grew more conscious about what I eat I found that the really interesting and most important stuff in a meal were really the vegetables. I felt the starches were always kind of the same and boring and what really gives you the most nutrients and also adds most of the flavor and character to a plate are all the other vegetables.
During the last months I grew more and more dissatisfied, upset, and in the later stages even angry with the fact that virtually all meals that one can buy outside have this huge starchy base and just not enough really nutritious (and delicious) veggies. Just think of a sandwich with just one leave of lettuce and slices from half a tomato. Or a pizza which is just a hot open sandwich that's still much more dough than veggies on top. Each time after having such a meal I would first feel full and tired (at work, this meant I needed coffee to not fall asleep!), then be fine for a short while, and then crash into a huge hunger (even greater than before I had eaten!) and sometimes accompanied with symptoms of low blood sugar. Maybe some readers know those shaky legs!?
For a while I avoided the problem by eating at the Asian fast food counter where the serving of veggies is big compared to the base of rice, but over time I also felt that there was still way too much white rice on the plate and also too few veggies. Sometimes I still needed coffee and wouldn't be satiated until the next meal time.
After my recent holidays in Taiwan where I enjoyed lots of great vegan kitchen, I had a big fallout with my Western diet – so bad that I called it my personal food crisis! Currently I am reading Joel Fuhrmans “Eat to Live” and find that my “dream food pyramid” is actually backed by science and medicine:
Something I just learned from the book and appreciated a lot to know is that leaf vegetables (like arugula, spinach, chard, broccoli, and kale) should actually be considered a separate group apart from other veggies because they are so rich in nutrients, especially micro-nutrients and natural fiber.
If you think that this pyramid seems weird and unnatural, then that's because the old one is just rooted so deeply in our culture. Dr. Fuhrman is not the only person that came up with this new food pyramid. Here are two other respectable sources: the University of Michigan and Dr. Dean Ornish (of TED fame) both promote a plant-based diet to promote health and avoid illness.

I'd like to write a lot more about what I learned from the book, and how it's just what I needed in my current crisis – but first I have to make another salad.


Robert Jack Will said...

Just found this great post about Eat to Live written by a Nurse whose had similar trouble with the Standard Western Diet: http://amberkeinath.com/nutritarian-diet-review-scam

Post a Comment