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The Food Pyramid Controversy: What Shape Should Your Diet Take?

By Lisa Chippendale

Infoaging Correspondent

Until a decade ago, nutrition for most Americans was synonymous with the USDA's four official food groups: meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and grain. Then, in 1992, the food groups took on a new form: the now-familiar Food Guide Pyramid, with a base of carbohydrates, topped by increasingly smaller levels of fruits and vegetables, protein sources and dairy, and finally fats, oils, and sweets.

One would think that government advocacy of a diet based mostly on carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables would have led to a new era of American healthiness. That hasn't happened. Instead, the last decade has shown a remarkable rise in the rates of two diet-related health problems: diabetes and obesity. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes increased 33% between 1990 and 1998, and now more than 60% of adults are overweight or obese.



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The biggest problem with americans is a complete lack of common sense and education when it comes to food. We take these new food fads as if they were scientific fact. There are two thing to remember about food: 1) You can be fat and eat very healthy 2) You can be skinny and have a horrible diet. For instance, potatoe chips and almonds can be quite good for you, but, in large amounts, they will make you fat.

A few key things to look for in foods: 1) saturated fat (bad fats) vs. non-saturated fats (good fats)....most people believe all fried foods like chips, fries etc are horrible for you and, in most cases, they are actually quite good for you. "PLAIN" low/no salt chips have little to no saturated fat, plenty of "good" fat, no cholesterol, no sugar, little or no sodium, and some vitamins and minerals. Also, watch out for anything with "partially hydrogenated oils" in it...most foods contain these oils and have "trans-fats" which are equal to (actually worse then) saturated fats. Some new products claim to be "trans-fat" free but still have these oils...they are lying. 2) cholesterol...your food should have little to no cholesterol. This means lean red meats (or no red meat) and white meat (careful of pork as it is super high in sodium) 3) Sodium...sodium = salt and salt = high blood pressure ('nuff said) 4) simple carbohydrates...there are different forms of carbs that you can get and only one is truly bad (unless you already have diabetes in which case you have to watch all carb intake). Sugar is considered a "simple carbohydrate" and is the leading cause of diabetes. Carbohydrates that are under "fiber" or "starch" are "complex" and beneficial.

P.S. - Foods high in fiber can help reduce cholesterol...cereal can be a very healthy means of reducing cholesterol and is, typically, good for you overall (just look for the above criteria).

P.P.S. - sorry for the long winded rant:-)

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