Friday, June 3, 2011
USDA Launches MyPlate Pyramid Replacement
I briefly mentioned my hope that the USDA wouldn't totally bork the new food pyramid. Well, they borked it. Not totally, though. It's better than the current Food Pyramid, but that's not hard, and I think that it's still fundamentally worse than the old food pyramid. WTF USDA?
First off, I actually very much like the pyramid structure. The plate structure is also rather good. I think that, correctly used, both designs would communicate what needs to be communicated. The issue is that they're completely failing to communicate these things.
Like, for example, the recent (and in some cases, not so recent) revelations that shortening is the equivalent of eating poison. You're as well off eating sticks of butter dipped in Frosted Flakes. It's obvious that many people don't know this. This is CRITICAL INFORMATION that should be communicated in the recommendation graphic.
Or how about the fact that they're recommending low-fat or fat-free milk, while there is no evidence to support it being better for you. In fact, some evidence supports whole milk being possibly better for you then fat-reduced varieties, but that's splitting hairs. The important fact is that there is no evidence supporting the low-fat assertion.
Their recommendation of whole grains is extremely problematic. Look in your local cereal aisle. The number of sugary cereals that advertise "Rich in Whole Grains!" is sickening. The plate should have said "Fiber," because that's what's actually important. Soluble and non-soluble fiber is what you actually want from that stuff, and lots of it So even though it's RICH IN WHOLE GRAINS (smiley face!) it's still low in fiber and unhealthy. Simply saying whole grains just gives our loving food companies another buzz word to obfuscate into oblivion.
I am happy to see that there appears, appears, to be no politicization of the recommendations. The "whole grains" part of the plate is questionable, as is the usage of the term "protein," instead of meat. The meat industry has spent lots of time trying to convince the public to see meat as something other than, well, meat. The USDA is saying that their market research shows that people know that "protein" means a diverse group of foods, such as tofu or beans, but I'm not so sure. And as any dietician worth their salt knows full well, people might say one thing while thinking and doing another.
The plate is only one issue with the American diet, though. Truly, the largest issue are our absurd agriculture policies. It brings to mind the 2007 documentary King Corn, which discussed the ridiculous state of farm subsidies. Namely, our farm subsidies are SO fucked up, we are paying people tax payer dollars since their lawn once had corn grown on it. Corn is far cheaper than it should be, and because of that, our diet is predominantly corn. Extruded corn, puffed corn, baked corn, corn meal, corn syrup, HFCS, well, you get the idea. And what isn't corn is soy, because it is also horribly over-subsidized.
And which companies are benefitting from this subsidization? The biggest ones, and ONLY the biggest ones. The little guys invariably get pushed out. So, shocker, the big guys are very averse to having the subsidies changed. As are the American junk food producers, since their shitty food is made of almost nothing but cheap corn. They bribe, oh, I forgot, they don't bribe, they make campaign contributions, to various politicians, who then keep these subsidies alive.
This isn't conspiracy theory nonsense. Remember, I'm always talking about how I'm not anti-corporation. I am, in fact, very pro-corporation. Corporations should not have morals. Their goal is to make money. Sometimes, this can manifest itself in moral behavior.
For example, it is in a corporation's best interest to keep its customers happy and healthy, so it might encourage exercise and sell healthy foods. But it also might not care, since its market is so huge, like McDonald's. It is not McDonald's job to worry about your waist line. It's yours. But it is also our government's. And the fact that our representatives, that supposedly care about us, are encouraging a broken system that gives countless billions of taxpayer dollars to rich, evil companies, while at the same time encouraging the American populous to get fatter and sicker, is a travesty of the highest order. We should hang these politicians from trees, bury them, and salt the earth where doth their bodies lay.
So, yes. The new MyPlate is better than the old MyPyramid, but the real progress, the real change, is yet to be made.