New food guide a mixed plate

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 13, 2011

By Dr. Christopher Magryta
For the Salisbury Post
In a government that is happy with nutritional mediocrity, the new food plate is no exception. Don’t get me wrong: This is a vast improvement over the food guide pyramid that was out of date at the time of its publishing in 2005. A key issue is the fact that the American Diatetic Association has long been in bed with the dairy council and various other industries that may not have our best interests in mind.
First, I will focus on the bad changes, or lack thereof, then on the good changes to end on a positive note.
After scouring the opinions of the plate by the experts, here is what I agree with. This was a huge opportunity for the government’s nutrition leaders to set a serious framework for tackling the future of our rapidly growing waistlines and disease prevalence. Where did they fall short?
First and foremost: The education on the difference between foods that spike blood sugar and those that do not is missing. For example, they make no distinction between juice and whole fruit with regard to the glycemic load, a measure of how fast a given food spikes your blood sugar. Juice will cause a rise in blood sugar much faster and higher than whole fruit. This is mostly due to fiber and its effect on slowing digestion. Remember that blood-sugar spikes directly cause complications in all humans over time. Glycation reactions occur every time your blood sugar spikes, and these reactions cause cataracts, neuropathy and other related diseases.
People need to know that juice, soda, sports drinks and other sugar-laden beverages are bad for us in the volumes consumed today. They missed this crucial teaching point on fruit. Sports drinks are almost never needed with regular workouts. Marathon runners or high endurance athletes could make a case for using them. However, I still do not like most of them because of high fructose corn syrup and high sugar volumes.
Second, I agree with Marion Nestle (a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University) that the dairy cup to the side of the plate makes little sense when you look at the data. Humans with the highest dairy consumption have high levels of osteoporosis, or bone loss. That’s exactly the opposite of what the Dairy Council would have you believe. Replacing that cup of dairy with water or unsweet tea would be preferable. Since a large percentage of children in school are overweight, it would be prudent to not replace milk with fruit juice.
Third, the section on protein is out of step with the rest of the plate. Protein is not a food group. In this wedge of the plate we should list meat, fish and beans as the food source. I think that this is a way for the meat industry to gain a foothold on the plate because most people equate protein with meat only. Even whole grains like quinoa and amaranth have excellent protein levels. If you look at books like “The China Study” by Dr. Colin Campbell, you would see that epidemiologically, we are not meant to eat so much meat and with such frequency.
Fourth, the statement that we should reduce trans fats is ridiculous. There is no amount of trans fat that is good for our diet. It needs to be eliminated entirely.
Fifth, the fact that they make no reference to the difference between a true whole grain and a flour-based grain is a shame. The difference is great. Grains should be predominantly whole and not processed.
Now for the good stuff. I agree with Dr. Andrew Weil on all fronts:
• Eat less, with more emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods.
• Half of the plate is vegetables and fruits. Amen.
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
• Whole grains are emphasized, for once.
• Reduce salt in all forms.
If Americans just heeded these five principles, disease would decrease and people would feel better. Let us pray that we see some change in the world based on these principles.
One thing that would help tremendously: Ask the federal government to change subsidies from corn, soy and wheat to vegetables and fruits. At that point, maybe soda would be $6 and fresh fruit would be 50 cents. What a thought!
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Dr. Chris Magryta is a pediatrician with Salisbury Pediatric Associates.