Last week, Nutrition Australia released a new food pyramid which has been updated to be more in line with more recent research on how we should be eating. Importantly – it places strong emphasis on plant-based ingredients such as fresh vegetables, fruit and legumes and processed foods have been omitted – two points I try to encourage here on this site, so it goes without saying that I was quite happy and excited about this (health geek right here!) And tellingly, so were you guys – the article I posted on my Facebook page about the release of the new pyramid was by far the most read for the week.
I thought I would recap for you all here what positive changes were made –
A whole lotta wholefoods!
- Sugar has been banished from the pyramid with people advised to limit their intake. This is in line with studies over the past few years which show that it is sugar – and not fats as previously thought – which not only contributes to weight gain, but is also a leading contributor of disease and illness
- Margarine has been removed completely – I was very excited about this one, as I have been trying to convince family for years now to switch back to butter (from grass-fed cattle and organic where possible, and small amounts only) and ditch the ‘marge’! Margarine is heavily processed, contains no nutritional value and has been linked to cardiovascular disease in recent years.
- The ‘low fat’ reference to dairy is gone! A nod to eating foods in their more natural state. When the fat is removed from dairy, other additives – most noticeably sugar (and lots of it!) – are often added instead. This takes dairy from being something which is minimally processed and can form part of a healthy diet (for those that can tolerate it) to being something highly processed and in a lot of cases, quite unhealthy. The best example of this is low-fat yoghurt by brands such as Nestle and Yoplait, which masquerades as being a healthy option but is often that processed and high in sugar that it becomes an unhealthy option.
- Grains and cereals have been moved from the “Eat Most” to “Eat Moderately” section, with more emphasis on wholegrains. In the old pyramid, we were encouraged to eat a whopping six serves of grains per day – including options such as heavily processed breads, pasta and cereals which contain very little nutritional benefits. This revised pyramid cuts back on the amount of grains we should be eating (in favour of eating more vegetables, see further below) and places a stronger emphasis on the types of grains we should be eating, with the inclusion of healthy wholegrains(/psuedograins) like quinoa, which is fantastic to see!
- The eat most section (ie the bottom row) is now exclusively plant-based products – primarily vegetables but also some fruit. Long-time readers of To Her Core would know that I love to encourage people to eat more vegetables and often try to incorporate vegetables into meals and dishes that normally wouldn’t feature vegetables. Eating more vegetables is one of the best things we can do for our health, so it’s great to see that promoted here.
- Healthy fats section – previously the ‘fats’ section has included margarine and reduced-fat spreads and the ambiguously termed “oils”, so it’s great to see these non-food items removed to make way for only healthier varieties of fats.
- Herbs and spice have been added to the pyramid. We often use salts and sugar to flavour meals (along with other packaged flavouring mixes) so it’s great to see the use of herbs and spices to flavour dishes encouraged in the new pyramid.
- Water has been added as the drink of choice. We all know by now the great health benefits of water, so it’s fantastic it included here as the best option to rehydrate.
One main thing I would like to see encouraged is the source of the products in the pyramid. By that, I mean where the products are sourced from can vary the nutritional components of the product greatly. For example, a loaf of sliced white $1 bread from the supermarket is going to have a very different nutritional make-up to a loaf of sourdough made from bio-dynamic, organic grains. For those that eat meat products, studies have shown that eating organic free-range eggs. dairy products, and grass fed beef for example are healthier options than the more commercial varieties of these products.
At the end of the day though, the pyramid is definitely an improvement on it’s previous self, and hopefully a sign of more positive things to come in health promotion.