According to "MyPlate," half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, with lean protein and whole grains dividing up the other half. Low-fat dairy on the side is also suggested.
"Grains, which had been featured prominently as the base in a previous food pyramid, are less dominant on the new plate."
As you add more veggies to your plate, be aware that many are more contaminated than you probably thought. Random USDA testing found an astonishing 34 different varieties of pesticide residue on a batch of conventional cilantro. The cilantro was the first batch of the plant tested in the USDA's 20-year program.
Azoxystrobin and captan were found 16 times at levels that exceeded federal limits. Other plants that contained excessive amounts of legal pesticides included imported asparagus and domestic spinach.
"Some medical experts ... are increasingly concerned about even low-level exposure to pesticides, especially in utero."
Even a cursory glance at the new USDA food plate icon reveals it is leaps and bounds ahead of both the 1992 and 2005 Food Pyramids. For starters, it is not a pyramid, it is a plate, which makes it far easier to apply when you're actually at the dinner table.
There are other prominent improvements as well, such as finally cutting down on grains and increasing the amount of veggies recommended.
As you may remember, the 1992 Food Pyramid had grains as the largest bottom block of the pyramid, and it encouraged Americans to eat 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta a day. This excess of carbohydrates, most of them refined, is precisely the opposite of what most people need to stay healthy.
As Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, told CNN:
"It promoted eating so many grain servings, it was promoting obesity."
The 2005 pyramid was not much better. It included a series of vertical colored stripes of varying widths to represent different food groups. It, too, advised that grains should make up the bulk of your diet, and was widely criticized for being confusing and offering little useful information. The new Food Plate has at least grasped the concept that grains should not make up the majority of your diet … but it still has a long way to go before it will offer a meal plan that will truly support optimal health.
Where is the Fat?
You may notice that fats are practically invisible on the new plate icon. In fact, except for a small portion of dairy, which is advised to be fat-free or low-fat, they are missing entirely. There is no mention of the importance of dietary fats, even the "politically correct" ones like the monounsaturated fats in olive oil and nuts, such as pecans (canola oil is also in this category, but I advise avoiding it and using olive oil instead). Of course, one of the most important of the healthy fats is animal-based omega-3, which is also absent from the plate.
Deficiency in this essential fat can cause or contribute to very serious health problems, both mental and physical, and may be a significant underlying factor of up to 96,000 premature deaths each year. For more information about omega-3's and the best sources of this fat, please review this previous article.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. government still has not acknowledged all of the data showing that saturated fat is actually an incredibly healthy, nourishing and all natural fat that humans have been thriving on for generations.
Saturated fats provide the building blocks for your cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone like substances that are essential to your health, and saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources (such as meat, dairy, certain oils, and tropical plants like coconut) provide a concentrated source of energy in your diet.
When you eat fats as part of your meal, they slow down absorption so that you can go longer without feeling hungry.
In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are also needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and for a host of other biological processes. To get these healthy saturated fats in your diet, you need to eat animal foods like butter and other full-fat raw dairy products and eggs, but these foods are still demonized by the establishment.
Trans Fats Not Mentioned
There is also no mention to avoid the true killer fat, trans fat, which is found in processed and fried foods, such as French fries and fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, pastries and crackers. This is the most consumed type of fat in the United States, despite the fact that there is no safe level of trans fat consumption, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine.
Trans fat raises LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and lowers HDL (good cholesterol) levels, which of course is the complete opposite of what you need in order to maintain good heart health!
In fact, trans fats -- as opposed to saturated fats -- have been linked repeatedly to heart disease. They can also cause major clogging of your arteries, type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems – but they were not even addressed at all.
Low-Fat Pasteurized Dairy is Not a Healthy Choice
Another faulty recommendation made by the new Food Plate is to eat fat-free or low-fat dairy. Again, the saturated fats in full-fat organic raw dairy are actually good for you, and this has been proven by numerous studies. For instance, research shows that consuming full-fat dairy may help reduce your risk of:
- Diabetes: Palmitoleic acid, which occurs naturally in full-fat dairy products and meat, protects against insulin resistance and diabetes. One study found people who consumed full-fat dairy had higher levels of trans-palmitoleate in their blood, and this translated to a two-thirds lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people with lower levels.
- Cancer: Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat found naturally in cow's milk, significantly lowers the risk of cancer. In one study, those who ate at least four servings of high-fat dairy foods each day had a 41 percent lower risk of bowel cancer than those who ate less than one. Each increment of two servings of dairy products equaled a 13 percent reduction in a woman's colon cancer risk.
- Weight: Women who ate at least one serving of full-fat dairy a day gained 30 percent less weight over a nine-year period than women who ate only low-fat (or no) dairy products.
- Heart Disease: People who ate the most full-fat dairy were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, according to a 16-year study of Australian adults.
The type of dairy recommended by the U.S. government may as well not even be on your plate, as not only is it lacking in healthy fat, but also it is pasteurized. I do not recommend consuming pasteurized dairy products of any kind. When I discuss dairy being healthy, I am referring to the organic, unprocessed raw varieties.
Pasteurizing milk significantly diminishes its biological value and destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamins, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria, and actually promotes pathogens.
Organically raised, grass-fed raw milk, on the other hand, naturally contains hundreds of healthy, "good" bacteria, including lactobacillus and acidophilus. There are also several coliform families of bacteria. It's important to realize that there are over 230 different kinds of E. coli, and only two or three of them are actually pathogenic and will cause you to get sick.
The rest are actually beneficial for your gut.
Raw milk also contains vitamins, which are virtually eliminated by the pasteurization process of commercial milk. But it's the presence of beneficial bacteria that make raw milk such an outstanding food source to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestine, which in turn has a significant, beneficial impact on your overall immune function.
Another Issue: Too Many Fruits
The new Food Plate advises Americans to "make half your plate fruits and vegetables." This is a step in the right direction, but to truly be healthy most people will need to limit their fruit consumption -- it should not be nearly equal to your veggie consumption, as the Food Plate suggests.
While it's true that fruits contain beneficial vitamins and other antioxidants, they also contain fructose. Fructose is the number one source of calories for Americans with most consuming 500% more than their ancestors did a mere century ago. Until they are able to lower fructose levels to 1900 levels than fruit needs to be avoided and only vegetables consumed for carbohydrates.
Please remember that over three-quarters of the population has insulin resistance. How do you know if you have insulin resistance? If you have any of the following conditions it is a safe bet you have it:
- High blood pressure
- High Cholesterol
If you have insulin resistance it would be strongly recommended to limit your total grams of fructose from fruit to below 15 grams per day (see the table below).
Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Limes 1 medium 0 Lemons 1 medium 0.6 Cranberries 1 cup 0.7 Passion fruit 1 medium 0.9 Prune 1 medium 1.2 Apricot 1 medium 1.3 Guava 2 medium 2.2 Date (Deglet Noor style) 1 medium 2.6 Cantaloupe 1/8 of med. melon 2.8 Raspberries 1 cup 3.0 Clementine 1 medium 3.4 Kiwifruit 1 medium 3.4 Blackberries 1 cup 3.5 Star fruit 1 medium 3.6 Cherries, sweet 10 3.8 Strawberries 1 cup 3.8 Cherries, sour 1 cup 4.0 Pineapple 1 slice
(3.5" x .75")
4.0 Grapefruit, pink or red 1/2 medium 4.3
To be fair, the USDA's MyPlate site does recommend drinking water instead of sugary drinks – and this is key to keeping your fructose consumption in check.
Your Vegetables are More Contaminated than You Think
As you increase your veggie consumption, a wise choice for your health, it's important to be aware that many vegetables contain high levels of pesticides. A new analysis by the USDA actually revealed at least 34 unapproved pesticides on cilantro samples.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic, and most are damaging to your nervous system as well. In fact, these powerful and dangerous chemicals have been linked to numerous health problems such as:
- Neurotoxicity and Parkinson's disease
- Disruption of your endocrine system
- Immune system suppression
- Miscarriages, male infertility and reduced reproductive function
This information alone should give you pause when considering whether to buy local, organic vegetables or not. USDA Organic farmers (and many small, local organic farms working without certification), must use different standards when growing vegetables. These standards include not using pesticides and other chemicals, including synthetic fertilizers.
You can find tips for which vegetables contain the highest and lowest pesticides here, as well as tips for cleaning your fresh vegetables here.
Remember, One Diet is Not Right for All
Finally, the inherent problem with any one-size-fits-all food plan is that no one diet is right for everyone. Your body has a unique biochemistry that predisposes you to thrive on a specific ratio of macronutrients derived from fresh whole foods. That diet is certainly not one that's focused on the relatively "new" inventions in the food arena, like white bread, white sugar and processed cheese.
Instead, it may be high in green vegetables and healthy fats, or you may require a higher protein percentage with your meals. We are all uniquely designed and require customized plans. This is why I highly recommend a program called Nutritional Typing, which is a central part of my health plan and is available for free on my site.
For many years we charged $29 for this test, but I didn't want the cost of the test to prevent anyone from taking it. So please take advantage of this free test. Nutritional typing is a way to determine what YOUR customized diet is, and it is not even a one-size-fits-all within each nutritional grouping, as the USDA's Food Plate is. If you take nutritional typing seriously, its guidelines will help you modify your food intake until you find the right balance for your optimal health.