Monday, January 17, 2011

The "new" food pyramid...WTF?

Ok. I'm just going to put it out there. What in the hell is going on with the food pyramid? Apparently the powers-at-be at the FDA decided that what we needed was greater flexibility in the recommended foods that we eat and decided to revise the pyramid to make the recommended guidelines easier to understand...

Pictured on the left here is the revised Food Pyramid, which is really just a vertical version of the old food pyramid, but much more confusing. I guess the narrowing of each segment is supposed to offer more flexibility on servings of each food group.

Let's just start with the fact that they both the old and new food pyramids are way off in their recommendations of what we should be eating. When will the FDA and the rest of the world catch up with the FACT that carbohydrates - of ANY and ALL kind - are primarily responsible for heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc...

Don't believe me? Ok, but before you move on to another website, humor me for a moment and listen to what I have to say:

When we eat carbohydrates and starches from ANY source, the bodies first response is to break them down to sugar. Whether it's a baked potato or a soda, your body doesn't know the difference at the cellular level.

Once the carbohydrate is broken down, your blood is filled with sugar (the amount will depend on the quantity of carbs and sugar you've recently consumed.) Your body does NOT want too much sugar circulating in the blood. So, evolution has handily supplied us with the ability to manufacture insulin (unless you have juvenile diabetes; but that's another topic altogether).

Insulin's primary daily job is to sweep up extra sugar from the blood and store it - either in muscles where it is used for energy or in the liver where it is saved for later. After you eat carbs or starches (or sugar), your insulin levels increase and your body shuttles that glucose to your liver until the energy is needed by your body. Between meals — when insulin levels are theoretically low — the liver releases glucose into the bloodstream in the form of sugar. This keeps blood sugar levels within a narrow range.

I say theoretically because the health industry's recommendation of eating 5-6 small meals throughout the day does not allow your insulin levels to drop and your liver can only store so much glucose.

Think of your muscles and organs as a car engine that runs on sugar (glycogen). There's only so much fuel that the gas tank can hold. So, when you're spilling over on sugar - and I guarantee that most of you are - the excess is stored as fat for later use. The problem is, it is rarely ever required for "later use" because you're never at a deficit of sugar if you don't stop eating carbohydrates for a while. See what I'm getting at here?

Insulin isn't necessarily the devil, however, without it, we wouldn't be able to shuttle all of that great energy into our bodily tissues and muscles that need it for basic processes.

The problems start when you have TOO MUCH insulin circulating. This often results in insulin resistance - and 75% of you have some level of insulin resitance. This is a bad thing.

When people are insulin resistant, their muscle, fat, and liver cells do not respond properly to insulin. As a result, their bodies need more insulin to help glucose enter cells, creaing a viscious circle whereas the pancreas tries to keep up with this increased demand for insulin by producing more. Eventually, the pancreas fails to keep up with the body’s need for insulin, excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, setting the stage for diabetes. Many people with insulin resistance have high levels of both glucose and insulin circulating in their blood at the same time.

Insulin resistance increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease among a host of additional diseases and ailments including obesity and/or weight gain.

So what do you do? Unless you are running on low bodyfat (around 5-8% for men, 13-15% for women), your body doesn't NEED extra energy in the form of sugar. So, stop stuffing your face with bagels, pizza, chips (baked or otherwise), bread, rice, pasta, white potatoes every chance you get and pick up a drumstick (and I'm not referring to the ice cream treats).

That's right - EAT MEAT - or fish, shellfish, poultry, lamb, pork, wild game, etc. When your body is lacking in sugar, your insulin levels drop (a GOOD thing for most people) and your fat storage mechanism all but stops as long as you're not overeating. As an added bonus, you'll gain insulin sensitivity (another GOOD thing) so that when you do eat carbs and sugar, your body gets really, really good at using it for energy instead of storing it.

So, in short, eat protein - and a lot of it. Don't be afraid to eat your bodyweight (in grams) of protein each and every day. Just make sure you eat lots of fibrous veggies, too!

If you do nothing more than swap out starch, sugar and carbs for protein and fibrous veggies -and remain within your daily/weekly caloric requirements (get a free account on to find out how much you should be eating) - you will lose fat faster than you can say "Moo." It's the easiest diet out there.

(This information is for general entertainment purposes. If you suffer from a metabolic or other health condition including diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, I would recommend discussing all of this with your doctor before doing anything silly.)

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