People these days seem to all be crazy about low carb, slow carb, Atkins, and South Beach diets, but the USDA Food Pyramid suggests we eat more grains than anything else in a day, with at least half of those being whole grains. Specifically for me to gradually lose weight, the interactive tools at mypyramid.gov suggest I eat the following daily:

  • 6.5 ounces of meats and beans
  • 3 cups of milk/dairy
  • 2 cups of fruits
  • 3.5 cups of vegetables
  • 9 ounces of grains

Why is there such an emphasis on grains? Would I be missing out on some sort of nutritional goodness if I ate 9 ounces of meat and 6.5 ounces of grains instead? What about the 4.5 ounces of grains that aren't whole? Won't they spike my blood sugars and drive me nuts? What about the rest of the Pyramid? If I hate fruits and eat veggies instead, am I going to be missing out on a key fruit vitamin?

  • 1
    There is no generally accepted food pyramid. Everyone has his/her version.
    – Eelvex
    Mar 28 '11 at 8:31
  • @Eelvex, sorry, clarified my question to be specifically about the USDA Food Pyramid, otherwise known as "MyPyramid"
    – Jeff
    Mar 28 '11 at 8:38
  • 4
    I consider this pyramid as generally more appropriate.
    – Eelvex
    Mar 29 '11 at 6:46

The emphasis on grains comes from the fact that the food pyramid is produced by the USDA and grain is a major crop that the organization is behind. You'll also find the major U.S. subsidies (dairy, corn, soy) will play highly in the "recommendations" that come from the organization.

You will not be missing out on major nutrients if you choose to take grains out of the base of your pyramid. An easy way to see this is to look at the number of people who suffer from Celiac disease and cannot process gluten, which is present in most grains. They are able to live an alternate lifestyle not based on the prevalence of grains and do just fine.

As for fruits and vegetables, you need both. Every fruit and vegetable has a different composition of thousands of different organic chemicals that contribute to optimal health. Certain fruits are rich in anti-oxidants that aren't as abundant in vegetables, and vegetables have bioflavanoids that aren't found in the same ratios in fruits, etc. So you'll want to eat a variety of both fruits and vegetables.

  • 1
    Agreed. Everything I read says the same thing, it's all marketing to sell more. My mom told me that when she was younger, at one time in her school they were given milk if someone fell sick as opposed to eliminating it because milk producers were the major sponsor of the school board.
    – Salsero69
    Mar 29 '11 at 2:21
  • Thanks! I ate extra fruit yesterday because of your comments.
    – Jeff
    Mar 29 '11 at 17:01

Marketing the emphasis of certain foods as being beneficial to health will make key industries more money...

Goes right along with the "milk does a body good", "beef, it's what's for dinner", and "High Fructose Corn Syrup is Corn Sugar" campaigns.

Very little of what they say is based on scientifically proven facts and the recommendations made don't take into consideration that it's perfectly acceptable to substitute certain types of foods for others.

The pyramid does a terrible job of describing what people need. Carbohydrates can be effectively replaced with proteins and still maintain a healthy diet whereas the opposite isn't true because of our amino acid requirements. Certain types of fats are important for growth because they contain fatty acids. Some types of fats (like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) aid good health not harm it. Vegetables are very important but not for the quantity eaten as much as the variety (Ie eating 3 heads of lettuce a day definitely won't cover your basic vitamin/nutrient needs). Last, but not least, who decided that a healthy diet should include more grains than anything else? The new one even has a large section for milk alone (without considering that most dairy products contain a lot of saturated fats).

The only point that the food pyramid got right was, 'it's important to eat a diverse diet'.


If you compare the nutrition of grains to veggies or to meat you will see the grains are largely worthless. Notice how most cereal are 'Fortified with vitamins and minerals!!!'. They do that cause otherwise there is no nutritional value. We evoloved to eat meat and veggies - not grains. Most people are to some degree alergic to gluten that is found in grains.

I haven't eaten any grains in months and I feel great. Give it a try. I follow Eelvex's advice.

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