Click image to download a PDF of the Health-Bent Umbrella.
To us, the USDA food pyramid has a few problems. The most obvious one and the one most commonly written about is the danger associated with the high carbohydrate/ high grain and low fat recommendations they promote. The second, and we think less obvious one, is that the pyramid does not represent visually what benefits eating well can help you obtain and what detriments it can help you avoid. It also does not represent the major underlying principles that drive the decisions on what foods should take precedence on your plate. With the Health-Bent Umbrella we set out to address both of these issues. Because to us, to create a sustainable lifestyle of healthy eating requires more than just a list of foods….knowledge of how your food can truly be used as medicine can help you stay the course.
The Umbrella Handle
The Health-Bent approach is founded in collective Paleo diet methodology and supported by modern science. As the handle of the umbrella lets us grasp it and postures it overhead, evolutionary biology and evidence of what our ancestors ate is the theory that allows us to grasp all the other aspects of the lifestyle and see how science supports them.
1. Evolutionary Evidence/ Paleo Diet
Our hunter-gather ancestors enjoyed lean/muscular physiques and lives largely absent of many modern diseases. Their pre-agricultural diets were free of grains, beans/legumes, vegetable oils, and refined sugars but high in animal protein and fat. Modern science supports that eating this way helps your body work the way it was designed to work.
The Umbrella Fabric
The fabric of our umbrella is made up of the foods we mindfully choose to eat. These foods provide the shelter to protect from the perils above in the clouds.
The Umbrella Ribs
The ribs of the umbrella support the structure and allow the fabric to stay taut and open. The ribs of our diagram are some of the major principles that guide our decisions about food and support the decision to eat the way we do.
2. Challenge CW
Conventional dietary Wisdom (think USDA food pyramid…high carb, low fat) has been linked to the increase in obesity and health problems prevalent in our country. CW recommendations are based on questionable data and are perpetuated by government and industry with suspected special interests other than optimal health.
3. Eat Low Carbohydrate, Especially Fructose
Chronically elevated insulin levels from high carbohydrate intake can break your metabolism and lead to fat storage coupled with the inability to burn it. Your body’s regulatory hormones and energy can suffer. This imbalance is tied to inflammation and a host of diseases. Carbohydrate intake also blunts satiety and causes those dreaded blood sugar crashes, which can lead you to overeat more of the wrong foods.
Fructose is one of the types of sugars found in fruit and refined sugars. There is mounting evidence that large amounts of fructose in your diet (which are normal anymore) are very dangerous to your health.
Fructose molecules can bond with other molecules in your body to produce AGEs (advanced glycation endproducts). These AGE’s interfere with cellular and molecular function and release highly-oxidizing side products. Fructose is not metabolised in the same way glucose is. It is processed almost entirely by the liver and there is mounting evidence that this burden over time leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease among other things.
Of course, some fructose consumption is normal and likely safe. The overabundance of fructose seems to be where the problems lie. It’s best if the source is fresh fruits and vegetables and added sugars are kept to an absolute minimum. Moderating fruit is also wise.
4. Omega 3 to Omega 6 Ratio
An ideal ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids would be around 1:1. The standard American diet has been said to approach 1:30. The culprit is largely modern vegetable oils. Processing and refining these oils has required sophisticated manufacturing processes that have only been available very recently. These oils trend toward very high Omega 6 levels. Omega 6 fats are pro-inflammatory (although we need some) while Omega 3s reduce inflammation. The imbalance is what can create a dangerous environment in your body harming your immune function. Do your homework on these oils, apart from being high in Omega 6 they are also highly susceptible to oxidation (damage).
Approved: Coconut, palm, olive, avocado, some nut oils – cold pressed is best
Avoid: Soybean, peanut, corn, sunflower, safflower, canola, flaxseed oil, and most others that are not on the approved list
5. Truth about Grains
Grains have evolved to possess a host of compounds designed to discourage consumption. They don’t want to be eaten! When you consume grains you are ingesting toxins. These “anti-nutrients” wreak havoc on your gut lining (can block absorption of nutrients you need) and are associated with auto-immune disorders among other things. Beans and legumes contain many of these compounds as well. Grains have only been an available food source for humans for about 10,000 years…a mere blink of the eye compared to our 2+ million years of existence.
Extra effort to find organic produce and pastured or free ranging animal products is worth it. Local is generally better as well. Conventional produce can contain harmful pesticides and fertilizers and frequently is grown and harvested in such a way that compromises nutrient levels. Industrialized meat is typically fed a diet foreign to the species, lives in unsanitary conditions, and is bolstered with hormones and anti-biotics. Animals should eat what they would eat naturally and live in a spacious environment, these products in turn will be healthier and bio-accumulate less toxins.
kt_simmsJune 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm
This is fantastic and I thank you for all the thought and work that went into creating it. If you haven’t already, you should put a link to it on the MDA post about rejected pyramids. It’s clear, concise, and attention getting and I think you’ll reach a lot of people in the paleo and primal communities with it.
BrandonJune 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm
thanks so much kt. we did submit it to MDA and actually it was his post that gave us the push we needed to get it finished. we hope it speaks to some folks and provides an easy way to share the gist of the lifestyle with others who aren’t really on board yet. thanks again.
ChrisBJune 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm
Nice job with your umbrella guys. Farming, specifically farming that produces grain and dairy is big business and whether we like it or not, is apart of the American culture and history. I don’t think the government will ever get away from pushing grains and dairy in it’s nutrition message. Too much money, too many lobbyists, too many jobs are in existence because of these industries.
In 2007, there were 2.2 million farms in this country. Of those, a little over 787K were dedicated to corn, soybeans and wheat, 36%. Just over $50 billion dollars in sales in one year. That’s Billion with a B. Add dairy farms (90K) and you have 877K farms or 43% of the total. The only way we can influence change is to do what you guys are doing and ultimately “vote” with your wallet when you go to the grocery store (or don’t go at all if you are so inclined).
I grew up on a dairy farm (drinking whole, unprocessed milk and still do from time to time), hold a fondness for the farmers and even though I don’t agree with the USDAs promotion of dairy (you just don’t need it), I understand its place in our society and in the USDA guidelines. Besides, if we are relying on the gov’t to provide guidance for our daily lives, we have serious problems. I think we should be way more angry and involved in discussions why it costs so much to make the “plate” than its content.
LardladFebruary 11, 2012 at 10:10 pm
I am loving health-bent. I really like the umbrella design so creative. Great article too.
megan keatleyFebruary 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm
thank you! love your handle!
ZApril 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm
Weston A. Price Foundation doesn’t seem to be as down on dairy?
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