Lets take a walk down memory lane, shall we?
The first ever food guide was created in 1943, called "The Basic 7".The purpose was to create a balanced nutrient diet even during war time (World-war 2). What I really like about this guide is the bottom line, "In addition to these 7 groups, eat any other food you want." So back then, it wasn't about calorie control or trying to maintain healthy weights, or even exercise. It was merely a way to sustain yourself during war time. So they recommended you to make sure to eat the 7 groups, in terms of nutrient needs. But to feel free to eat anything else as long as you meet these 7! Sounds kinda cool... But also interesting to see how far we've come to our current guidelines, but we'll get to that in a minute!
Then came the "Food Pyramid". This is by far my favorite one! Maybe because i'm so use to seeing it. This guide lasted from 1992- 2005! This guide includes serving sizes, the different foods included in each section, and gives visuals! They also include "milk, yogurt, and cheese" in the dairy section. This is more than I can say for the current guide.
However, a grand success of the USDA is the ability to create something so user-friendly from information that is so completely "science" based. What do I mean, "science-based"? If you've never taken a science or nutrition class, you probably haven't heard of the terms "estimated average requirement" or "adequate intake". Well, that's what you have me here for right? I pay ~ $30,--- a year to explain these terms to you.
So, I will have to draw on my nutrition classes to answer most of these terms as we didn't go into full detail in this chemistry class. But, you know what they say, if you're able to recall information from previous years and apply it again, it's that much more rooted in your brain for long-term storage. Starting with the first term Estimated Average Requirement, is the act of providing the exact amount of a given nutrient you need to consume to meet the needs of half of all healthy people in the population. Conversely, a recommended dietary allowance accounts of 97% of all healthy people. But, say for example you cannot establish either of these numbers. I don't know, maybe it's not impossible to track. Then an adequate intake value would be provided. I like to think of this one as the "ball park". Get somewhere around this "ball park value" and you are pretty well off. Like this value, there is also the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range. This provides you with a "ballpark range " to help prevent or lower the risk of chronic disease. Finally, tolerable upper intake level is the maximum amount of something you can consume before hitting toxic level.
These new "recommendations" are here to replace the old recommended allowances. Okay, so what does this mean? Basically, before they use to tell us, that It is recommended you consume 500mg of Calcium (for example only). Now, it's more reasonable. There are sometimes just two numbers. An ERA (For example) 500 mg of calcium is recommended to meet the needs of half the people. So If you eat 500 mg, you're like "almost there" to completely fulfill your needs. But they can also give you an RDA: "750mg of calcium is recommended" this tells you that if you eat 750 mg of calcium you are more than likely fulfilling your calcium needs, because an RDA accounts for 97-98% of all healthy people.
Does that make sense?
But be careful. Often times (especially in America) we always think "more is better" this is not at all true. Just because they are considered vitamins or nutrients doesn't mean you should start consuming a ton of calcium.
The industry determines "how much" by quantitative estimates. So determining how much of a specific nutrient is in the food (via scientific methods) and dividing it by the standard portion in the population. This method is much like determining protein quality, where you divide the amount of protein in your food in question, by the amount in a "complete" protein such as an egg. It's not just important to determine the amount of nutrient in a food, you need to educate the population! I mentioned this in my last post about the population getting active about their health. But they can't get active with resources not there. So the industry puts out information about nutrient content through means of the USDA. For example, they have various databases where you can go and find the nutrient content of foods. But that's the point, you need to go.
What do you guys think? Is the industry doing a good job educating its consumers? How about the food guides, how helpful are they? Honest answers: have you even followed a food guide before? Did you know that the food guide changed to MyPlate? Comment below!
"Food Demonstrations To Be Held Over Nation". The Tuscaloosa News. The Associated Press. 2 April 1943. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
"The thing the professor forgot". National Agriculture Library Digital Repository. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
Huston, Diane (29 April 1992). "Food guide pyramid is built on a base of grains". Daily News (Bowling Green, Kentucky). The Associated Press. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
"MyPyramid -- Getting Started" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
"USDA's MyPlate". United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2 June 2011.