by Todd Fulginiti
I’ve always wanted to visit the great pyramids in Egypt and witness one of the official “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”. Someday I will do that. But at this point in my life, my only experience with a pyramid is with one of the “seven blunders of the modern world”. That is, the food pyramid I was taught about in elementary school. Had I kept following the path of that pyramid, I don’t know if I would have lived long enough to retire and go see the ancient “World Wonder” pyramid. I might be exaggerating, but honestly, I’m not sure.
Back in elementary school, in the late 70’s and early 80’s, we learned that eating healthy was one of the keys to good health. We also learned that the food pyramid is a good tool for us to use in making healthy dietary choices. And at the bottom of that pyramid, the foundation of good nutrition was… grain?
Yep- grain. As in 6-11 servings per day. That’s anywhere from half a dozen slices of bread to half a loaf. Or it’s 3-5 cups of rice. Or maybe a box of granola bars. Or half a box of cereal. The human body converts these grains we eat into a form of sugar. They are meant to provide us with quick bursts of energy, but are not the building blocks of long term health the food pyramid purports them to be. Not that grains are all bad, but 6-11 servings per day? All digested into sugar? Sheesh! That’s the blunder.
And grain loves sugar. They’re all over each other. Like high school lovers under the bleachers. They’re together all the time. Add some corn syrup and you’ve got a three- ring circus of sugar in your body that can be anything but entertaining. Are there really added sugars in bread? Most likely. Cereal? For sure. Granola bars? Definitely. Reading labels in the grocery store may look dorky, but there’s a lot to learn from it. What I learned, was that I had a front row seat at the sugar circus, I didn’t feel good, and I wanted a refund.
My body was overloaded with sugary grains and sweeteners. As a vegetarian, at the time, I heard that meat could be replaced by eating more “healthy whole grains”. All that did was turn my front row “sugar circus” ticket into a back stage pass. I was bloated, gassy and often lethargic. Exercising was a chore and I lacked both strength and stamina. I was almost always hungry. Some argue that our bodies get addicted to grain and sugar much like a traditional junkie to drugs. I felt like that could be true.
I made several changes to my diet. One of them was to nearly flip-flop the grain based food pyramid I had learned as a kid. Vegetables and fruits became the base. Proteins including nuts, meat and cheeses took over the second level. Grains were reduced greatly and relegated to the third tier. The traditional 6-11 servings per day were cut to 2-4. After a few weeks, all of my dietary issues were either greatly improved or were gone altogether. The sugar circus had folded the tents, sold the animals, and gone out of business.
I soon discovered that my new and improved diet mirrored something called the Harvard plate. In short, it prescribes our diets to be half vegetables and fruits, about 30% proteins and only 20% or less grains. That’s a far cry from the grain heavy, “blunderful” food pyramid I had been taught. The plan is easy to follow with a little effort, and will help make sure the three ring sugar circus doesn’t come to town. Charts and information on the Harvard Plate are widely available on the web. Check them out. And let me know if you come across any cheap airfares, I’m planning a trip to see the pyramids.
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