- It’s not possible to consume enough protein without meat and dairy.
- If you don’t drink milk, you’ll have weak bones from calcium deficiency.
- Too many carbohydrates from bread, pasta and rice will cause weight gain.
- You should avoid fats to stay lean and fit.
- Eating plant-based will leave you hungry all the time.
These are some of the popular myths that many people believe. Myths that are kept alive partially due to the USDA’s inability to publish nutrition recommendations based on the latest research studies. In this article, I’m going to explain the USDA’s food recommendations and why you shouldn’t follow them to a T.
What is MyPlate?
The Food Pyramid was the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recommended food proportions starting in 1992. It was then updated to MyPyramid in 2005 and lastly, MyPlate in 2011. The latest MyPlate recommendation is that you fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, half your plate with grains and protein, and have a side dish/cup of dairy (as shown in the graphic below).
MyPlate was introduced in 2011 as a way to make the previous food pyramid easier to understand. But, the general guidelines and portions haven’t changed much in the past ~30 years despite a growing body of evidence that’s leaning away from meat (depicted as protein above) and dairy.
What are the problems with it?
The problem with the USDA publishing recommended food guidelines and portions is that their recommendation isn’t based on nutrition alone. It isn’t the healthiest diet for you. And, this can be traced back to the following reasons:
- Lobbying for Jobs – The USDA is influenced by food manufacturers/producers and special interest groups. For example, despite mounting evidence that dairy is unhealthy for human consumption, extremely large dairy farmers and lobbyists will argue that the government needs to recommend dairy to the public or else these farmers will go out of business. The demand for cheese, yogurt, milk and butter will decline and those businesses will struggle. So, the USDA keeps recommending dairy.
- Lobbying with Donations – These same food manufacturers/producers and special interest groups also donate large sums of money to government organizations. That makes these groups very important to the USDA. If the USDA doesn’t keep these groups happy, they risk losing the large donations that keep these government organizations running. So, if meat and dairy organizations keep donating, the USDA keeps recommending.
- Slow to react – Government organizations are also known to evolve slowly. They don’t provide new recommendations until evidence is clearly depicted for a number of decades. This is why, for example, the American Medical Association wouldn’t recognize the harm of cigarettes until 1978 despite research studies proving their dangers since the 1950’s. So, it’s probably going to be another decade or so before the USDA’s recommendations match the research of today.
For these reasons, I don’t trust or follow MyPlate. I’m putting my trust in the majority of studies and research performed in the last 10 years. Research that is recommending:
- Avoid Meats: Consumption of any meat (beef, chicken, pork, tuna, salmon, etc.) in almost any form or portion has shown to increase your risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
- Avoid Dairy: Similar to meats, consumption of any dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) in almost any form or portion has shown to increase your risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
- Avoid Added Fat, Salt and Sugar: Almost 100% of the time, these things are added to better the taste of what you’re eating. And in return, these additives increase your chances of getting the three main diseases (heart disease, cancer and diabetes).
- Avoid Pesticides and Preservatives: These have been shown to increase your chances of getting ADHD, allergies and cancer.
If MyPlate and the USDA’s nutritional guidelines were intended for your nutritional health alone, all of these items would be excluded from it.
What should you eat instead?
What most new studies are recommending is a balanced Whole Foods Plant-Based diet. Whole foods means that the foods aren’t highly processed or refined (example: a potato compared to potato chips). Plant-based means that the foods come from plants instead of animals (excludes meat, dairy and eggs). This diet has not only shown to prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer, but in many cases it can actually cure it. What you see with a whole foods plant-based diet is that diseases decrease significantly, allergies subside, energy levels flourish, appetite becomes manageable and you just feel better in general. It’s likely this is because humans are meant to eat plants. Here is what a whole foods plant-based diet consists of:
- Vegetables: Leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms…
- Fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi, blueberries, raspberries, grapes…
- Whole Grains: quinoa, oats, rice, millet, barley, spelt, rye…
- Nuts/Seeds: almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, brazil nuts, pecans…
- Legumes: lentils, peas, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, peanuts…
When consuming a balanced diet with a variety of these foods, you barely need to worry about portion sizes or calories. These foods are all nutrient dense and high in fiber which prevent overeating. And, you don’t need to worry about developing diseases because this diet not only prevents disease but can cure it.
Added Bonus: Besides all the great personal health benefits, plant-based diets are considered to be better for the environment. And, obviously, more humane for animals too.
Debunking the myths.
Myth: It’s not possible to consume enough protein without meat and dairy.
Truth: With a whole foods plant based diet, there’s protein in almost every food you eat (veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, grains). It’ll be nearly impossible to be protein deficient while eating plant based.
Myth: If you don’t drink milk, you’ll have weak bones from calcium deficiency.
Truth: With a whole foods plant based diet, there’s calcium in almost every food you eat (veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, grains). It’ll be nearly impossible to be calcium deficient while eating plant based.
Myth: Too many carbohydrates from bread, pasta and rice will cause weight gain.
Truth: This can be true if you’re consuming white bread, pasta and rice where the fiber and nutrients are removed. But this has the opposite effect when consuming whole grain bread, pasta and rice. So, consume whole grains and don’t worry about your carbohydrate consumption.
Myth: You should avoid fats to stay lean and fit.
Truth: Healthy fats are vital to nutrition. You should avoid added fats like oils but never worry about healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds. There’s more evidence that healthy fats actually help you stay lean and fit.
Myth: Eating plant-based will leave you hungry all the time.
Truth: As you transition away from meat, dairy and additives to a whole foods plant based diet, you’ll actually find yourself more satisfied with your meals. This is true because you’re consuming less sugar, fat and salt which insinuate hunger, and consuming more fiber, nutrients and minerals which subdue hunger.
We’ve grown up in an era of “Got Milk?” and “Where’s the beef?” We’ve been told by the government that a healthy diet consists of meat and dairy. And yet, we’re less healthy and more diseased than ever before. We’ve been led astray.
Let’s stop following the government’s recommendations that are swayed by lobbyists, and start following the latest independent research. Let’s try a whole foods plant-based diet.
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