A Healthy Food Pyramid For A Balanced Diet
The healthy food pyramid concept has been used to help people to understand proportions of different food types that should be included in a healthy diet. However, over the years the types and quantities of foods that should be included has undergone radical change. It is now generally accepted that the healthiest diet is one that is based primarily on plant-based foods.
The healthy food pyramid shown above is recommended by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman in their books “Fantastic Voyage” and “Transcend” as the basis of a healthy eating plan. It refines recommendations published by Harvard Medical School. Eating a balanced diet comprising primarily of plant based foods, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and a limited amount of healthy fats as illustrated in this healthy food pyramid, will ensure success with long term weight management and lower the risk of conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
By including a large variety of fresh or frozen vegetables of all colours in your diet, not only will your health benefit from the wide range of vitamins, phytochemicals, minerals and other nutrients that vegetables contain, but you will also find it easier to keep your weight under control. Vegetables are low in calories, have a high fibre and water content and as a result keep you full and satisfied on fewer calories. Fruits are essential as well, but should be eating in moderation due to the sugar content.
Provide essential amino acids that the body needs to grow and function. While animal sources of protein such as red meat and dairy products contain all of the amino acids required by the body, the downside is that these sources are high in saturated fat, which if consumed in large quantities can lead to weight gain and disease. Better choices of protein are lean white meats, such as turkey and chicken, fish (particularly salmon), and plant sources such as soy, vegetables such as lentils and legumes, beans and nuts.
Carbs are an important part of our diet, and provide the fuel needed by the body for physical activity. However, not all carbs are the same. Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, rice and pasta, sugars and pastries are rapidly broken down into glucose, resulting in insulin spikes and over time, this can lead to health issues and weight management problems. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, such as oats, beans, brown rice and whole grain bread are broken down more slowly into glucose, (in other words they are “low GI”), and therefore much healthier.
Fats are dense in calories, and are the way the body stores energy, so high fat foods can easily lead to weight gain. Some fats are worse than others. Saturated fats and Trans fats increase the risk of heart disease and can raise cholesterol levels. These are found in butter, animal meats, coconut oil and margarine. Unsaturated fats high in Omega 3’s such as flaxseed meal and green leafy vegetables for example have anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce the risk of heart disease. While fats such as nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados contain less saturated fat, they are not completely free of unhealthy fats and should therefore be consumed in moderation.
Natural Food Stores
Fats, carbohydrates and proteins play an important role in body function, however in order to achieve a healthy balance in your diet, these need to be eaten in the correct proportions as shown in this healthy food pyramid.
Glycemic Load and Glycemic Index
These scales provide an indication of how quickly a carbohydrate is broken down in the body, and converted into glucose. Complex carbohydrates have a low GL and are low GI. This means that they do not cause the same level of fluctuations in glucose and insulin levels as simple sugars for example and are therefore healthy options to eat. It is important to understand these concepts for weight management.