Thursday, December 1, 2011

The "Healthy" Western Diet and Lifestyle: A Recipe for Disease

Officially, the West's current idea of a "healthy" diet consists of:
  • Reducing a person's intake of meats, high-fat dairy, and foods high in salt, sugar, cholesterol, and oils/fats (especially saturated fat). (1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Consuming more foods that are filled mostly with whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Unfortunately, while following this advice may increase a person's intake of some nutrient-dense foods (e.g., vegetables and fruit), it still exposes them to the modern foods likely to produce disease (wheat, soy, and high-omega-6 fats/oils). (5) But, I've already talked about this before.

This post is about the how each westernized country idealizes diet and lifestyle. While doing research for another post, I found a European Food Information Council page that tries to reconcile all the different food-based dietary guidelines found throughout Europe. When I got to the individual guides themselves, I couldn't help but be impressed by how much time and effort went into making them (well, except for Hungry, who seemed to do its guide with MS Paint).

Almost all of these guides make cereal grains the foundation of their ideal healthy diet. This means that those following these plans will also be getting their daily dose of lectin, gluten, and phytate, which are anti-nutrients and toxins found in grains.

Many of these guides also advise that followers ditch the saturated fats for polyunsaturated fats, which might not be the greatest idea. Even worse, some of these guides actually tell you to consume margarine, which typically combines rancid polyunsaturated fats from seed or nut oils with heat, chemicals, and hydrogenation to create a deliciously unhealthy oil that is full of trans fats.

Looking at all of these food guides inspired me to make my own Rapid PT food pyramid. The food guide below generally incorporates the nutrition advice that I normally dole out.

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Examples of Western Food Guides
Anyways, here are a few food food guides from the US and Europe. You can see a lot more at the following link.

The United States

The UK
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1. USDA's Food Plate. [Online] September 30, 2011. [Cited: November 19, 2011.]
2. FSA Nutrient and Food Based Guidelines for UK. [Online] October 1, 2006. [Cited: November 19, 2011.]
3. Food-based Dietary Guidelines in Europe. [Online] October 1, 2009. [Cited: November 19, 2011.]
4. Krishnaswamy, K., et al. Dietary Guidelines for Indians. [Online] 2011. [Cited: November 19, 2011.]
5. Lindeberg, Staffan. Food and Western Disease. UK : John Wiley and Sons, 2010.


  1. Nice job on your pyramid, Bryan. Although I am high carb raw vegan, I will not pick on the meat or eggs at the base. However, how is consuming milk from any source (mother or animal) after WEANING beneficial (other than keeping a starving person alive)? In addition, oils are just empty calorie processed junk foods (like table sugar and protein powders). On top of that, how can one be sure the oil has enough vitamin E to prevent oxidation both in the bottle and in the intestines where it still could go rancid? What say you?

    Oh, and what the hell is a serving? Serving sizes vary from food to food and are so arbitrary. A cup of one thing can be 1000 kcal and a cup of another can be 10 kcal and the lower calorie option could have more micronutrients than the high calorie option. Basing recommendations on weight and volume is meaningless. At minimum, recommendations should be based by caloric value.

    I tell people to consume 60-100% of their calories from plant-based foods because that is the minimum Eaton et al. went with ( They went with 65% plant : 35% animal (by weight), however, if you work it out, then it is about 61% plant by calorie (MINIMUM). You cannot do that with the silly 2-3 servings of each per day recommendation of your pyramid base...

  2. FYI, you have Kitavans labeled on this blog post but it is not mentioned in the post???

  3. Oops! Thanks for pointing that out. I have removed that Kitavan tag.

  4. After reading your comment, I realized that refined oils should not have such a prominent place at the bottom of the food pyramid. I also think that it would be helpful to have a more specific serving size identified for each category, which I will add to a new pyramid after the holidays.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. @ Anonymous:

    As for your objection to milk, the book "The Untold Story of Milk" argues that some Paleolithic nomadic humans would follow herds of certain milk-producing ruminants to gather their milk. Some nomadic groups still do this. And, from what I’ve read, some traditional vegetarians (from 6th century BCE) would consume milk as a part of their daily diet (;

    While it is true that humans are still evolving the ability digest milk in adulthood, many humans have chosen to live off raw milk alone to correct certain ailments, allowing them to attain much better health. Check out for more information.

    And there is a big difference between RAW milk and modern PASTEURIZED milk. Compared to pasteurized milk, raw milk from pastured cows (eating fresh green grass) is more nutritious and usually better tolerated by humans (including those who are lactose intolerant). Modern pasteurized milk, on the other hand, is diluted in the cow, heated, broken apart, and then reassembled. This process does so much damage to the nutrients in milk that pasteurized milk has to be fortified with milk protein and a certain vitamins (raw milk doesn’t need fortification). So, although raw milk and pasteurized milk are both called milk, they are two very different things.

    To demonstrate this, in the 1930s one researcher tested the difference between raw milk/meat and cooked milk/meat on the health of cats (and other animals). The “raw” group was perfectly healthy from one generation to the next for ten generations. The “cooked” groups suffered terrible diseases with each successive generation, eventually being completely unable to reproduce by the 4th generation. Clearly, there is something very different between raw and pasteurized milk (,_Jr.#Pottenger.27s_cats).

    But you don’t have to drink milk at all. It is true that you can live a perfectly healthy life with nothing more than minimally cooked meat and vegetables, fresh fruits, and filtered water. But I included RAW milk in this pyramid because it is a healthy food option for those who can tolerate it (and find it).

  7. I have updated the Rapid PT food pyramid.

  8. According to IDF, India topped the list of countries with high incidence of diabetes, with an estimated 1,12,000 children having diabetes in 2011.