Several decades ago a giant emphasis was placed on the Food Guide Pyramid issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The pyramid had a two-fold purpose; one was to look at what we eat and emphasizing the importance of a balanced diet. The second was to teach what was considered at the time a balanced diet. At the time of its emergence, heart disease was the major disease of concern. Unfortunately while good for the time, the pyramid was designed on shaky scientific evidence and has since evolved to be more current with scientific findings and health.
Time and scientific study have introduced a variety of food pyramids. Harvard University created the Healthy Eating Pyramid based on more than two decades of research and to fix the flaws of the Food Guide Pyramid. It takes into consideration the base flaw of eating refined grains turns to sugar while not improving fiber intake. It also changed the meat guidelines to better reflect healthy and unhealthy fats as well as adjusting dairy intake.
The foundation of the Healthy Eating Pyramid is exercise and weight control. Science has proven that these two factors have a large impact on how the body processes nutrients and the overall effect on health. The theory is a balance of energy: Weight change = calories in – calories out. Too much food and not enough exercise can lead to weight gain and imbalance.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid addresses the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats breaking the old thought that all fats were bad. Unsaturated fats include certain plant based oils such as olive, nuts, seeds, avocados and fatty fish such as salmon. The fact that these oils are placed at the bottom of the pyramid indicating that they should be a larger part of the diet was a major change from the old Food Guide Pyramid.
The food pyramid also emphasizes the need for larger vegetable and fruit intake. This is backed by scientific study showing that a more plant based diet provides far more health benefits than the previous food pyramids. Emphasis is also placed on eating more natural and less processed foods especially in meat and grains. It was once thought eating grains, although processed was meeting the goals of the food pyramid issued by the USDA but not all grains are created equal thus why the Healthy Eating Pyramid was developed.
Overall, the Healthy Eating Pyramid takes into consideration decades of scientific research and overall health beyond food including exercise and more natural foods.