Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MyPyramid to MyPlate

Over the years many food guides have been published to assist the public with making healthy food choices. These guides all try to follow four basic goals:
1.     Benefit overall health without promoting specific diets or focusing on specific diseases
2.     Form statements around the most current and correct dietary science
3.     Focus on all aspects of the diet
4.     Build on the strengths of previous food guidelines.
The most common food guidelines are the 1992 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid, the 2005 USDA MyPyramid, and the USDA MyPlate (2011).
The 1992 USDA Food Guide Pyramid was published. This image stacks food groups with the group with the largest recommended intake on the bottom and smallest on top. This pyramid portrays grains and carbohydrates as the most important food group. The main errors with this illustration are that it can be confusing to read and that it does not specify what types of foods to eat within each food group. For example, it says to eat 6-11 servings of grains but does not recommend which types to eat; in past blog posts we have established that not all carbohydrates are equal.
1992 USDA Food Guide Pyramid
Food Group
Recommended Amount
6-11 servings
3-5 servings
2-4 servings
2-3 servings
2-3 servings
Fats and Oils
Use sparingly
In 2005 the USDA introduced a revised version of the MyPyramid. This new model depicts the food categories in a more vertical fashion implying that it is necessary to eat from each food group. With that said this pyramid still depicts carbohydrates as the food group with the highest recommended servings. Another modification to the pyramid was the addition of the exercise component. The side of the pyramid is a set of stairs with the purpose of encouraging the public to be active and pair a healthy diet with physical activity. Downfalls of this guideline include: the confusing display and the heavy emphasis on carbohydrates.
2005 USDA MyPyramid
Food Groups
Recommended Amount
6 oz.
2.5 cups
2 cups
5.5 oz.
3 cups
Fats and Oils
Not included
Then, in 2011, Michelle Obama helped unveil the newest dietary guideline called MyPlate. This guide is designed around what each meal should look like and it supposed to be used in conjuncture with the rest of the content on choosemyplate.gov. This recommendation permits flexibility meaning that it allows people to substitute foods for an equal alternative. For example, fat free yogurt can substitute fat free milk because it supplies the same nutrients. This new visual also eliminates some of the confusion of the other guides because it is a great representation of what individual meals should look like on average and it is an easy image for children to understand. However, it does not supply the public with enough information to help them choose healthy food options. Because this model is supposed to be used with the rest of the website those without access to it are left with too vague of a description of a healthy diet. Additionally, MyPlate does not address that some food choices are healthier than others in a food group; for instance, potatoes are healthier than french fries.
2011 MyPlate
Food Groups
Recommended Amount
¼ plate
Vegetables and Fruits
1/2 plate
¼ plate
1/2 cup
Fats and Oils
MyPlate is a tool created by the USDA used to help illustrate what a healthy meal looks like in terms of proportion and variety. The take home message from this post is that nutritional science is progressing; in the sense that each day we learn more and apply that knowledge by editing the recommendations of a healthy meal or daily dietary requirements. The 1992 MyPyramid, 2005 MyPyramid, and 2011 MyPlate images are tools that prove the evolution of our understanding.

Davis, C. A., Britten, P., & Myers, E. F. (2001). Past, present, and future of the food guide pyramid. American Dietetic Association.Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101(8), 881-5. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/218404938?accountid=39473
Fuhrman, J. (2011, June 15). Disease Proof : Disease Proof : Health & Nutrition News & Commentary : Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/news-usda-replaces-mypyramid-with-myplate.html
Out with the Pyramid, In with the Plate. (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/plate-replaces-pyramid/
Sizer, F., & Whitney, E. (2012). Nutrition Tools – Standards and Guidelines. In Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies (12th ed., p. 45-47). Belmont, California: Yolanda Cossio.

Whitney, E., & Rolfes, S. (2013). Planning a Healthy Diet. In Understanding Nutrition (13th ed., p. 45-47). Belmont, California: Yolanda Cossio.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Now that we have made it through the macronutrients and some specifics about them; Hannah and I have we will now be exploring some interesting nutrition topics that we are curious about. For myself I try very hard to eat “real” food. I try to stay away processed food, but they are everywhere. A recent movement that has caught my attention is the Non-GMO Project. GMOs are genetically modified organisms. So in other words, it is the modification of living organisms, which in this case is mostly our food. Many countries including: Japan, Australia and those in European Union consider that these foods are not safe. United States as of now has very limited regulations and allows GMOs due to advantages in food production and agriculture. I do not want to go into the politics that revolve around GMOs and the labeling rules, but instead I want to give the facts and truths about the food and how it affects us.
According the Non-GMO Project website, not all the GMO food is labeled even though 80% of processed food contains GMOs. A recent list of high-risk foods contains alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, soy, and sugar beets. Without knowing it, we eat genetically modified food every day and this is how it has been for hundreds of years. Genetically modified food does not mean that we injecting chemicals in the food we eat, but rather taking seedlings, for example, and trying to enhance its growing year or resistance by another plant organism. Genetically changed by other plant antibacterial makes our mass crops more stable against disease and higher in production. Safety concerns arise because the changes to the plants will have effects on us as humans.  The health risk to humans though is not fully known. According to the CDC, antibiotic in our meat are impacting us as humans and the risks are increasing with a higher amount of consumption over time. This is meat specifically not all foods.  Organizations who feel that GMOs are safe disagree with the GMO Project. Reasons for their argument include: altered crops are more resistant to stress, have additional nutrients, land is being used efficiently therefore more production and longer shelf life of our foods. The GMO Project website emphasizes how “bad” GMOs are but I also wanted to share other points of view so you yourself can decide and further look to make your own decisions.
Avoiding the modified food is the most difficult part because they are also place alongside organic labeled food. Requirements for organic food are: not be grown with certain pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge or genetically modified seeds. Organic food is a great option to avoid to pesticide, fertilizers, and GMOs, but it comes at a cost. Some organics food are double “regular” prices, you would think with less fertilizer and pesticide spent for agriculture it would bring prices down?! On the contrary, the price is raised due to the decrease in overall amount of food that can be grown. Crops may not be as bountiful compared to those who used commercial fertilizers and pesticides simply. Organic and non-GMO options are intriguing to most people, but yes it does come with a price. If this is something that you are interested in more, the Non-GMO Project website has many links that lay out their cause, current policies along with list of foods and brands. Some brands they have listed are:

  • Annie’s
  • Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop
  • The Gluten Free Bar (GFB)
  • True Goodness by Meijer

Being GMO free may not make you look “healthier” and more “fit”, but our food and what we put into our body has to be our decisions and if we want to eat cleaner for ourselves and our environment a GMO free or organic diet may be an option for you.

(2013, May 2). Retrieved November 13, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db121.htm
GMO Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2015, from http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Protein Supplements

In previous posts we have emphasized the benefits of protein as well as described the proper way to choose them for a healthy diet, but we haven’t discussed getting protein through supplements. Some people believe they have a “short cut” to receiving the benefits of a healthy diet without all the work a by taking supplements. With that said, taking supplements is not always bad, they are immensely helpful for the individual struggling with deficiency when a nutritionist prescribes them. There are many reasons people choose to take protein supplements, including building muscle, losing weight, strengthening fingernails, sleeping better, and relieving pain and depression; but do supplements actually do all of these things? The general answer is no.
Many people in the athletic or active population think of protein as an ergogenic aids. An ergogenic aid is an external element that is used for the intent of enhancing physical performance. Examples of this are protein powders, amino acid supplements, and steroids. Protein powder and amino acid supplements are controversial because of their questionable ability to enhance athletic performance whereas steroids are controversial because of the inherent, dangerous physical effects.
Protein supplements
        An example of a protein supplement is whey protein. This supplement has actually been proven to enhance muscle mass slightly but has not been proven to give an advantage in athletic performance. However, muscle size is increased not the by supplement alone but in combination with resistance exercise that fatigues the muscle.
Amino acid supplements
        Some people take individual amino acid supplements because they think they have particular positive effects on the body. Although some amino acids are essential, they do not exist in food in isolation and can be harmful to the body if presented that way. In fact, large doses of a single amino acid may inhibit the absorption of another amino acid; with long-term use this could potentially lead to toxicity in one and deficiency in the other. Amino acid supplements can lead to adverse effects such as diarrhea because water collects in the digestive tract in attempt to create equilibrium with the concentrated supplement.
        There’s no doubt that steroids can seriously alter someone’s physique to make him or her appear to be the ultimate athlete, but they come at a high cost. Anabolic-androgenic hormones can have negative physical effects on the mind, face and hair, voice, chest, heart, abdominal organs, blood, reproductive system, muscle bones and connective tissues, and more. The athletic advantage gained by taking anabolic steroids is not worth the cost of your overall health. An example of the impact of steroids includes more aggressive behavior, termed “steroid rage,” as well as anxiety, psychotic depression, personality changes, and suicidal thoughts.
The concept of supplementation is not one unique to athletes; it exists in the sedentary population as well. It’s not unusual to hear people talk about taking a multivitamin every morning or a vitamin or mineral with seasonal changes; however, adequate vitamin and mineral intake can come from a well balanced diet and, in fact, supplementing a specific vitamin when you are not deficient can be damaging to the body. Vitamins and minerals work synergistically with food and therefore depend on each other to be absorbed. Therefore, all you’re getting by taking a multivitamin is expensive pee (not worth the money in my opinion). However, some studies have proven that taking fish oil and vitamin D daily have a positive effect on the body.

Most supplement companies draw those interested in getting their ideal body through false advertisements. It is important to remember that these companies have a primary goal of making money even if it means using advertisement tricks to sucker someone into buying something they don’t need.  An example of this is the “too good to be true” approach to nutrition advertisement quackery; meaning that the supplement promises intense results in a minimal amount of time. Although supplements like protein shakes, bars, and drinks provide convenience they do not replace the benefits of a healthy diet and cannot makeup for a lousy one.  

- Hannah

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Controversies of High Protein Diets

Excessive amounts of protein can lead to more harm than good. Excessive amount of protein from food consumption or supplements can add disproportionate calories to our diets. Remember, 1 gram of protein is 4 calories, and in large quantities, like any macronutrient, will result in more calories consumed than our body uses, which is then stored as fat. Protein is essential, but like fats its history has changed, our perspectives on what protein really does for our bodies and what is the “right” and “wrong” for consumption.
In the 19th century, protein was related to meat and that was how it stayed for many years to follow. I myself didn’t know that many beans, legumes, and vegetables have almost the same or higher amounts of protein per gram than animal meats. It was once said “a large amount of protein was for the civilized man”. Granted this was the 1900s; the recommended protein was 125 grams per day, whereas now it is around 50 grams for an adult male. According to one English physician, those who were wealthy ate meat and those who were poor could only eat potatoes and bread. This same physician also stated that those who ate less meat had “poor physique”. Doesn’t this sound similar to what we know today?! Those who consume high amounts of protein must be stronger and have a better physique. Today, we find both dimensions: those fighting to have enough calories and struggle meeting their body’s need and those who consume an unreasonable amount to maintain their physique.

Consequences of Too Much Protein:
  • Filling your calories with protein without energy from carbohydrates can lead to fatigue and muscle weakness.
  • Our bodies can’t efficiently use all the protein especially those on high-protein diets. 20-25 grams can be used in one meal, whereas the rest could be turned into fat storage.
  • High protein meals can easily be coupled with a high level of fat. Together extra consumption may lead to excess calories and weight gain that may not be muscle.

            Some fad diets follow the routine of high protein with low or no carbs. The only problem is that by limiting carbohydrates our body becomes low on glucose and then we feel fatigue. Another problem with a high protein diet is that it limits our food choices and nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, and whole grain are missed. We need these! Even though protein rich food bring high levels of B12 and iron we lack vitamin C and folate, which we find in fruits and vegetables. Consequences of too high protein diets lack an assortment of food. This may lead to weight gain due to high calories consumed in one food group. Finally, I want to mention that there is correlation of high protein diets to chronic heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and obesity (Whitney).
            With all this said I want to emphasize that a higher protein diet is not completely unhealthy. Many researchers are now arguing that high protein diets are part of a large picture weight loss plan, especially for those who are trying to curb hunger. Now, why is this? When protein in the diet is increased it changes our bodies metabolically, which has its advantages for those trying to lose weight, as well as for athletes. Metabolically high quality protein will assist in creating lean body mass, and in decreasing body fat. This is exactly what athletes want along with those trying to regain muscle and lose weight.  Just like there are high quality carbs and fats there are high quality proteins. High quality proteins include essential amino acids and are highly digestible. High quality proteins aid our body’s function to maintain long-term muscle and bone health (Pasiakos).  Too little leads to deficiencies and excessive amounts much leads to long term problems, but right in the middle is right where we need to be.
            Our 19th century thinking has lead us to where we are today along with numerous other thoughts and myths about protein. Everything in moderation is what I like to remind myself everyday. We need protein, but just like carbohydrates and fat, too much can harm our bodies, and limit our overall health and fitness.

  • Sara

Pasiakos, S. (2015). Metabolic Advantages of Higher Protein Diets and Benefits of Dairy Foods on Weight Management, Glycemic Regulation, and Bone. Journal of Food Science, 80(1), 2-7. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.12804
Whitney, E., & Rolfes, S. (2013). Protein: Amino Acids. In Understanding Nutrition (13th ed., p.183- 184). Belmont, California: Yolanda Cossio.
Sizer, F., & Whitney, E. (2012). The Proteins and Amino Acids. In Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies (12th ed., p. 214 ). Belmont, California: Yolanda Cossio.
Clark, N. (2014). Protein: Building and Repairing Muscles. In Nancy Clarks' Sports Nutrition Guidebook (5th ed., pp. 137-155). Newton, MA: Sports Nutrition Services.
Campbell, T., & Campbell, T. (2005). A House of Proteins. In The China study: The most                         comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. Dallas, Tex.: BenBella Books.