Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., Reviews:
The New Government Food Pyramid
Now Called, MyPlate
First lady Michelle Obama unveiled the new
USDA MyPlate on June 2, 2011.
The USDA’s previous pyramids reflected the
American diet exactly as it is – centered on animal
products and processed foods rather than whole
The 2010 dietary guidelines make some notable steps in a healthier direction:
the guidelines state that:
Americans consume too much sodium and too many calories from solid fats
(saturated and trans fats), added sugars, and refined grains, and advised that
Americans reduce their consumption of these items in favor of nutrient-dense
The guidelines also called for Americans to increase their total vegetable and
fruit intake, especially dark green, red, and orange vegetables.
Vegetables make up the largest portion of MyPlate, (this name replaces the old
pyramid), slightly larger than the grains portion (unfortunately the
recommendation to eat more green vegetables was not included in the
MyPlate graphic or messages).
They also advise drinking water in place of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Certainly all of this is sound advice.
However, what MyPlate illustrates – filling half the plate with fruits and
vegetables, and half with protein and grains – will not be sufficient to
significantly improve the health of Americans.
MyPlate is not the picture of a health-promoting diet MyPlate still allows the
vast majority of calories to be obtained from nutrient poor foods.
Half a plate full of meat and grains (only half of which are whole grains), plus a
serving of dairy at each meal does not leave enough room in the diet for high
nutrient foods like vegetables and beans. Animal products and processed
foods are still the major source of calories.
The “Protein” portion: Protein is a macronutrient, not a food group. Better
instruction would be provided by guiding Americans toward specific foods or
This perpetuates the myth of the importance of protein. Plus most Americans
see “protein” and think “meat” – not greens, nuts, seeds or beans, which are
much more healthful sources of protein.
All “proteins” are certainly not created equal. It is important to differentiate – to
depict meat and other animal products as disease-promoting foods because
they raise cancer risk, and greens, beans, nuts and seeds as health-promoting
foods because they decrease cancer risk.
This plate further confuses people, because they do not realize that green
vegetables are also high in protein.
For a diet to truly be consistent with the current science, nuts and seeds
should be consumed every day because of their potent cardiovascular and
The same goes for beans – high in fiber, phytochemicals, and resistant starch,
beans are extremely protective against heart disease, diabetes, and colon
cancer, and help with weight maintenance.
Nuts, seeds and beans, critical foods for excellent health, are not even present
on this plate. An opportunity exists here for the government to advise beans,
seeds and nuts be the preferred source of protein in the diet here, which
would radically improve this program.
Vegetables vs. Grains: The quantity of vegetables and grains are almost equal
in MyPlate – the vegetable portion is just slightly larger. Although whole
grains are healthful, their nutrient density is not nearly as great as vegetables
Grains do not deserve such a prominent place on the plate, especially since
only half of grains are recommended to be whole.
This allows for a dangerous amount of refined carbohydrate, which is known
to promote obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. As far as
carbohydrate sources, beans should be emphasized over grains.
Dairy is still prominently placed: Dairy foods are not health promoting, and do
not deserve a place at every meal. The inclusion of dairy in MyPlate
perpetuates the misinformation that cows’ milk is essential to human health,
and is the best and healthiest source of calcium.
Plus dairy is high in protein, so realistically it should be included in the protein
group. With a serving of meat (“protein”) and a serving of dairy at each meal,
MyPlate allows for excessive protein intake, which in turn allows for elevated
IGF-1 levels and therefore increased cancer risk.
The strong link between dairy products and prostate cancer and ovarian
cancer should preclude it from earning such a prominent place in this plan.
Eat less: Americans do need to eat fewer calories, but the “Eat less” advice is
This is the reason diets fail, because eating a smaller quantity of unhealthy
foods that does not meet our micronutrient needs produces overwhelming
hunger and addictive cravings, eventually leading back to overeating.
More effective advice would be to eat greater quantities of high-nutrient, low-
calorie foods, (such as vegetables and beans) satisfying the body’s desire for
micronutrients and volume and leaving less room in the diet for unhealthy
Packaged processed foods vs. intact grains: Also, there is no mention of
limiting processed foods in the advice to consumers – salty, oily packaged
foods full of excess calories could easily be placed in the “grains” category, in
place of healthful intact grains.
A truly health-promoting food pyramid
I have designed my Nutritarian Food Pyramid such that the foods that are the
richest in micronutrients per calorie and have the most documented protective
effects should be eaten in the largest quantities.
Green vegetables, at the base of the pyramid, followed by other non-starchy
vegetables, beans and legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds, starchy vegetables,
and whole grains.
Ninety percent of the daily diet should be made up of these nutrients –dense
unrefined plant foods, whose calories are accompanied by health-promoting
Foods that do not contribute significant health benefits, such as refined
grains, animal products, sweets, and oils should be eaten in significantly less
This model of a healthy diet aims not just to moderately improve the American
diet, but to change the American diet radically, creating a diet that will
dramatically reduce the risk of chronic diseases and save millions of needless
medical tragedies and deaths.
Gorillas Need Greens, Not Processed Food
By: Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Posted on March 15, 2011
The leading cause of death for male gorillas in zoos is heart disease. Sadly,
animals that live in close contact with (and fed by) humans end up with human
Gorillas are the largest of the primates, and they are one of the four species of
great apes (great apes make up the Hominidae superfamily, which includes
chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas).
Following chimpanzees, gorillas are the closest living relatives to humans,
differing in only about 3% of our genetic makeup.
Gorillas are herbivores that live in the forests of central Africa, where they can
eat up to 50 pounds of vegetation each day, mostly leaves and fruit. Although
most gorillas have a preference for fruit, they also eat large amounts of leaves,
plus herbs and bamboo, and occasionally insects.
In the wild, gorillas spend most of their day foraging and eating. In the wild,
gorillas eat an extremely high fiber diet, and derive a significant proportion of
caloric energy from the fermentation of fiber by bacteria in the colon,
producing short-chain fatty acids.
The approximate proportions of macronutrients in a wild gorilla’s diet is 2.5%
of calories from fat, 24.3% from protein, 15.8% (non-fiber) carbohydrate, and
up to 57.3% from short chain fatty acids derived from bacterial fermentation of
In contrast, the standard diet for gorillas in captivity is usually not made up of
natural leaves, herbs, and fruits – it is a diet of nutrient-fortified, high-sugar,
high-starch processed food.
This unnatural diet has contributed to signs of heart disease and enlarged
hearts for both of the male gorillas at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo.
Researchers at the zoo and at Case Western University decided to change the
gorillas’ diet, bringing it closer to what it would have been in the wild.
Since late 2009, the two gorillas have been eating endive, dandelion greens,
romaine lettuce, green beans, alfalfa, apples, and bananas. Each of them eats
about ten pounds of vegetables each day.
The gorillas also spend more time eating (50-60% of their day rather than
25%), which is similar to wild foraging behavior. After one year on their new
diet, each gorilla has lost about 65 pounds, their health is improving and the
researchers are noting and documenting their decrease in heart disease risks.
My question is: why were they feeding processed foods to gorillas instead of
their natural food diet in the first place?
Heart disease and heart attacks are just as unnatural for a gorilla as they are
for humans. I guess it is pretty low for the zookeepers to be feeding a gorilla a
processed food diet for convenience that will expedite its death.
How could they not know that gorillas should eat a natural diet? But how did
our society develop the universal eating cult that permits and encourages the
feeding of disease-causing fast food, processed food and junk food to human
kids, damaging their future health potential?
I guess maintaining our food addictions to processed foods are a more
powerful drive than our desire to have our children be healthy. Maybe humans
should not be in charge of feeding humans or animals? Maybe we should hire
the gorillas to raise our children? Did you ever watch the Planet of the Apes?
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. www.diseaseproof.com
Article: The New Government Food Pyramid