10 Most Pervasive Food Pyramid Myths

The Food Pyramid was only amended a few short years ago, meaning that most Americans still believed eating 6-11 servings of pasta and bread per day wasn’t just recommended, but actually necessary. One of the most significant problems with the old guide was that it didn’t qualify any of its dietary suggestions, but depending on your age and nutritional needs, your food intake should also vary. The new Pyramid has clarified many of the old confusing questions about nutrition, and here we’ll expand your health education by debunking some of the most pervasive Food Pyramid myths that still exist.

  1. Your diet should consist mostly of bread and pasta: The biggest level of the old food pyramid was the bottom — and featured bowls of pasta and rice, cereal, three loaves of bread and a few jolly looking crackers, dancing off to the side. But besides the fact that eating more bread than lean proteins or veggies during the day is bad for you, the Food Pyramid didn’t clarify what kinds of breads you should be eating. White four and refined grains don’t hold much nutritional value and often have lots of sugar.
  2. All sugar is equal: At the top of the old pyramid, a little triangle allowing sugar in your diet extended the myth that all sugars are the same. But getting sugar from fruit, corn syrup, natural juices and honey is way better for you than shoveling cake and candy into your mouth.
  3. Specific portions don’t matter: The updated Food Pyramid offers more specific recommendations for the amounts of food you should be eating each day, as compared to the old one, which suggested vague portions: 6-11 servings of bread and grains, and 2-4 servings of fruit. But depending on your age, activity level and personal nutrition needs, those servings could be way off. Even the new pyramid can’t tell you exactly how much you should be eating, and of what. It’s best to talk to your doctor or nutritionist, and do a little research on your own, too.
  4. All veggies are the same: As with sugar, not all vegetables are created equal. The new Food Pyramid breaks down five vegetable subgroups, but still doesn’t tell you which are richest in the vitamins you need. Some veggies, like avocados or potatoes, have more calories than bell peppers, which have more Vitamin C. Mix and match, and remember that the more colorful your vegetable medley, the better.
  5. The Food Pyramid doesn’t matter if you’re a healthy weight: Serving size does affect weight, but if you’re not getting enough of the right nutrients, you won’t be healthy, even if you’re lucky enough to have a normal weight. The vitamins in foods like lean meats and fish, vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts, and whole wheat grains keep your body running at its best, giving you energy and keeping you healthy.
  6. There’s a hierarchy among food groups: If you compare the old and new food groups, you’ll see that the old one is organized from bottom to top, while the new one is organized by mostly equal longitudinal sections. In other words, the old pyramid confused consumers into thinking there was a kind of food hierarchy, but the new one recommends balancing all foods together for better nutrition.
  7. Your fats and oils should come from junk food: Your daily ration of fats and oils isn’t an excuse to grab a cupcake or bag of greasy chips. The Food Pyramid now clarifies that most fats and oils should come from fish, nuts and vegetables oils, and that you should reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats as much as possible.
  8. What you eat and how you exercise aren’t related: The old Food Pyramid ignored exercise and activity altogether. But the more you move, the more you need to eat, and the smarter you have to be if you want energy and fuel for your exercise. Now, the government has added an exercise aspect to the Food Pyramid, recommending that adults be active for at least 30 minutes most days and children for 60 minutes most days. And if you want to lose weight, adults might need to double their activity time, at least.
  9. Fruit and fruit juice are the same: The Department of Agriculture now cautions consumers against drinking too many fruit juices, while the old pyramid didn’t differentiate between fruit and fruit juice. Regular fruit contains more natural sugar — and less of it. Fruit juices are often mixed with too many sugars, diluting any real nutritional value away from the beverage.
  10. You can cook your food however you want: Foods can lose nutrients and gain a lot of bad stuff depending on how you cook them. Just because your Food Pyramid tells you to eat chicken or fish doesn’t mean fried varieties will work. The new Food Pyramid cautions against frying foods and encourages consumers to eat lean cuts whenever eating meat.

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