In a society that’s regularly bombarded with the latest fad diets and eating plans designed to help people lose weight, Nutrition Australia has stepped up and delivered a brand new healthy living pyramid that may help to eliminate any confusion about the definition of healthy eating.
The pyramid was originally designed in the 80s as a visual aid to suggest recommended dietary intake. The new guidelines are based on extensive reviews of some 55,000 research papers. The last update of Australia’s food pyramid was 15 years ago.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, and could even mean a few thousand less calories per day. Here are some key points based on the pyramid, which may help you crack the code for healthier living.
Vegetables, legumes and fruit
Plant-based foods, such as vegetables, legumes and fruit, now occupy the main layer at the bottom of the pyramid, and are seen as the most important part of a daily diet. According to nutritionists, plant-based foods should make up a 70 per cent portion of our diet.
A diet that includes unprocessed plant foods lowers your risk of developing cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, plant foods are high in fibre, which helps us to feel satisfied, making them ideal foods for those trying to maintain a healthy weight. It’s also highly recommended that we eat more vegetables than fruit.
Whole grains over carbs
Whilst we do need do need carbs in our diet, the new pyramid recommends reducing the amount of foods.
When choosing carbohydrate-based foods, it’s recommended that we eat mostly whole grains, such as brown rice, oats and quinoa, and eat less processed grains such as white bread, pasta and processed breakfast cereals. The best breads are dense and include a multitude of grains. It’s also best to choose wholemeal pasta and breakfast cereals such as porridge made from traditional oats, and unprocessed cereals such as natural muesli.
It is recommended that you aim for a variety of meat and non-meat options when choosing a source of protein, because each alternative provides different nutritional value. Milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives for protein are also very important for the calcium (needed for healthy bones, muscles and nerves) as well as other necessary vitamins and minerals.
Whilst existing evidence suggests that we limit the amount of saturated fat in our diet, not all fats are bad. In fact, good fats are essential for healthy brain function. Choose plant oils, such as olive oil and canola, which are rich in unsaturated fats. Healthy fats can also be found in foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds and fish. And where possible, stay away from butter and margarine.
Salt and added sugar
Recent research by UK professor Tim Spector found that junk food kills the healthy gut bacteria that help to keep people thin. Too much salt and added sugar is also linked to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. So, it’s best not to add salt when cooking or eating and avoid processed or packaged foods, such as junk food or fast food, which is high in added sugars and salt.
Drink more water
Sweeteners found in fizzy drinks also have adverse effects on metabolism which can lead to weight gain. So, when hydrating, stay away from sugary soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.
What do you think of the new food pyramid?
Read more about the Healthy Living Pyramid at Nutrition Australia.