Here we go again. It’s another pyramid scheme, but probably not the kind you’re thinking of.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it’s in the process of revamping the long-broken “food pyramid.” The hope is that its new version of the pyramid will help to combat the growing problems of obesity and high blood pressure in the United States.
Now, while I absolutely agree that it’s well past time for the seriously faulty pyramid to be chucked, you’ll have to pardon me if I don’t hold my breath while I wait for the USDA to finally deliver a usable and accurate pyramid.
Out of the gate, the food pyramid was fatally flawed. Originally, it painted all fats and oils with the same broad “this-stuff-is-bad-for-you” strokes, lumping them in with “sweets,” while at the same time pushing potentially harmful carbohydrates as a great substitute for fat.
Not surprisingly, given the mainstream bias, good fats were completely ignored in the original version of the pyramid. No distinction was made between harmful fats and the good kind. And absolutely no notice was taken of the differences between individual carbs…with white rice and processed white breads being given the same weight as brown rice and whole grains.
Then, in 2005, the pyramid got a spiffy new rainbow-colored look. But the new cleaned-up look was, unfortunately, accompanied by an even more confusing message than the original. The lack of information in the new pyramid graphic makes it essentially useless as a teaching tool.
Even the inside materials of the current pyramid—should a consumer actually delve into them further—don t provide an accurate picture.
In the current version of the pyramid, there’s not nearly enough attention given to the harmful role that starchy low-fiber carbohydrates and dangerous man-made trans fats play in the development of heart disease and diabetes. And on the flip side, the important health-promoting role that good fats and whole grains play is virtually ignored.
So while the USDA was busy earning an A+ in graphic design for its 2005 pyramid update, it was also getting a big fat F for the curiously absent sound nutritional advice that should have come with it. And, frankly, is there any real reason to feel the 2010 version will be much better?
I honestly do hope that in December when the new version is released that all my doubts will be proven unfounded. I’m looking forward to being surprised by an unbiased and realistic version of the pyramid, one that will actually help us get out of this mess we’re in.
But let’s just say that the USDA doesn’t have a great track record so far.
I only hope that this time around new and improved will refer to more than just the graphics.