The Healing Foods Pyramid

April 05, 2006

When I read the new Healing Foods Pyramid created by the University of Michigan Integrated Medicine I cringed. I laughed. I wept.

Healingfoodspyramid Since I'm too lame to figure out how to put bigger pictures on this blog here is the URL so you can see up close.

There are a few fascinating things with this new HFP.

If you look at it, you'll see that water is the most important element. Kudos to the UMIM for getting that right. Bless you.

But then the rest of Sugar Mountain falls apart.

If you think about it (which these folks clearly didn't) the order of importance (if you're going to use a pyramid) should be from most important to survival to the least - not from what is popular to least popular in terms of diet ideology. The pyramid should be based on science.

So water takes the number one spot. No problemo. Without water we die pretty fast even if we eat tons of fruits. (Caveat: IF you did not drink pure water but instead drank coffee, tea, juice, beer, etc. your health might suffer but you would not die. This is true. However, that is because the largest ingredient in these beverages is in fact water.)

So let's say liquid is the most important substance and water is the best liquid. OK.

Next? What's in the on deck circle? According to the HFP its fruits and veggies. But given our goal of sticking to science not popularity, what really should come next? What is the next most important substance that without it we'd suffer or even die?

Fat and protein.

In fact, on a diet of pure fat and protein (EX: A juicy hormone, antibiotic, grass fed steak, salmon with he skin, etc.) you could live forever and ever and suffer no ill health. (I'm sure some folks will want to challenge me on this. Go for it.  Just do your homework first to avoid embarrassment.)

If all you did was eat plants and fruit, well, you ain't hanging around on this planet for too long in any healthy way. Bear in mind the Vegan - the most extreme of all the plant based eaters NEEDS to take vitamin supplements or she will suffer vitamin/mineral deficiencies and perish.

But why? If plants and fruits are so healthy why is this so?

The fat meat/fish/egg eater on the other hand does NOT need to take supplements. 

If we did a contest to see who gets to take the second place stand by virtue of survival on their diet the meat eater wins.

Now - somebody stop me! I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Fred it's about portions - we agree all people need all food types it's portions.

Yeah? Well then how come the Healing FP clearly states that you can have 2 Martini's daily but only 1 or 2 servings of meat per week?

And how come the Healing FP teaches that pretzels are healthier than eggs? Go look my friends. In the breads section there is a picture of a freaking pretzel. (That was the part that made me weep. In my mind I saw this scene: "Hey obese kid! C'mere! Put that egg down right now! Here's a pretzel instead.)

They even put seasonings ahead of meat. I take this to mean it's healthier to eat daily servings of Paprika than steak!

No. fat and protein get second place and fruits and veggies get third.

4th place? Grains. Well, let's think survival again. Now that we are drinking lots of water, eating a lions share of meat (What would happen to a Lion on the HFP? I shudder at the thought.) with some seasonal fruits and berries do we need anything else to survive and survive well?

I'm what? What do grains provide (and lets toss those party favor legumes in as well) that fat, meat and veggies/fruits don't?

I've asked this of quite a few registered dietitians and not one was able to tell me. Name a single micronutrient that an all fatmeat/veggie/fruit diet doesn't provide. Don't think too hard because the answer is...


So these two get stricken from the pyramid entirely since we do not need them. Bear in mind that the HFP pyramid is not intended to be a menu at a restaurant. It is intended to be a list of food stuffs we're supposed to eat.

To sum up, I propose the Hahn Health Cylinder:

  1. Water
  2. Healthy fats, meat, eggs, fish/seafood
  3. veggies, fruit

The rest is not healing because they are not necessary. They are flotsam.