For more than 100 years, a government food guide, pyramid, or plate has been telling us what to eat. Much of the nutritional guidance from these recommendations has been to consume varying amounts of grains, fruits, vegetables, meat and proteins, and dairy.
When I was growing up, I ate everything on my plate. I even remember being told the importance of eating all the food groups in school. I always thought I was doing right by my health while eating these food groups.
Boy, have times changed.
The problem is that guides don’t contain updated nutritional data. And they’re a product of politics, lobbyists, and the food industry. Cow farmers, grain farmers, milk boards, food companies, doctors, and dietitians have always had their say before the approval of these food guides becomes public.
If you ask me, when everyone gets told what to eat, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Are Food Guides Helping or Hurting Us?
Disease is at an all-time high in North America, especially in the U.S. and Canada, where heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are among the top diseases. In my opinion, the food guides are a main reason why. Whenever there is an update in these guidelines, not much changes aside from slightly different portion sizes. The food, for the most part, remains the same.
That being said, progress is being made as we speak. Our neighbors in Canada are gearing up to release their new food guide sometime in 2018. Surprisingly, the first draft of the new guide looks nothing like previous food guides, which haven’t changed much since their establishment in 1942.
Canada’s New Food Guide
A real shocker is that dairy is being downplayed, and there’s less emphasis on processed foods. Instead, the draft guidelines are taking into account more gluten-free products, whole foods, and protein-rich foods, especially plant-based sources of protein.
Rather than milk, the guidelines sensibly suggest people drink water. This is a good thing in my mind. Remember that dairy is a processed food. After all, humans are the only species that drink cow’s milk. And, about 75% of the world’s population suffers from lactose intolerance, while others have a problem with the casein and whey in dairy.
The Dangers of Cow’s Milk
The pasteurization of cow’s milk is known to damage good bacteria while destroying and inactivating important enzymes. Research from 2014 found that pasteurized milk could increase the risk of bone fractures, cancers, and even death. Furthermore, milk consumption has been linked to acne, eczema, canker sores, constipation, iron deficiency, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and more.
Other studies have shown that people with increased casein antibodies may have a greater risk of schizophrenia; bipolar disorder; type 1 diabetes; heart disease; and colon, prostate, and ovarian cancers.
At the same time, there is evidence that supports a casein-free diet in the treatment of autism spectrum and attention deficit disorders.
Critics of the proposed Canadian food guide argue that milk products are a great source of essential nutrients like calcium or protein. However, with all the health problems associated with milk, you may be better off getting your nutrients from whole foods and vegetables.
What’s the Solution?
I believe the USDA should also re-evaluate its outlook on dairy in its “MyPlate” food guidelines. Canada may also change the “meat and alternatives” food group to “protein” as the USDA did.
Overall, though, I don’t think governments should be recommending food groups for a nation. Some countries like Brazil don’t even use a food guide. Instead, they recommend steps for a healthy diet.
For instance, Brazil promotes a natural or minimally processed diet and shopping at farmers markets or directly from the farm. The tropical nation also advises citizens to be wary of food advertising and marketing. It sounds like Brazil is on to something!
Diets Shouldn’t Be Complicated
We are all different, and your diet should reflect that. It should be simple. It’s not about counting certain proportions of micronutrients or macronutrients and calories. Rather, get what you need from a whole-food, chemical-free, and unprocessed diet. Follow that guideline, and I guarantee you will be on the road to optimal health as a result!
“Food-based dietary guidelines – Brazil,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2014; http://www.fao.org/nutrition/education/food-based-dietary-guidelines/regions/countries/brazil/en/, last accessed July 25, 2017.
“Cow Milk,” GreenMedinfo; http://www.greenmedinfo.com/toxic-ingredient/cow-milk, last accessed July 25, 2017.