Introducing my retro looking, but oh so current, (and oh so ‘me’) Food Pyramid, created, and illustrated by yours truly.
Slightly The Good Life-esque, no?
I recently commented on the fact that Australia have changed their nutritional guidelines and released an all-new Pyramid to reflect the changes.
I was very excited to see that vegetables had made it to the foundation stage, and grain got bumped up. But it wasn’t all great. I thought – I could do better. And so I made this lovely creation to reflect my own personal thoughts on what a good food pyramid could look like!
On the FOUNDATION LEVEL – meaning what a wholesome diet would build itself on, are a myriad of yum-tastic foods. Mostly plants! In fact the whole pyramid is mostly plant based and I mean for it to be seasonal too, when possible. I’ve also expanded upon ‘vegetables’ to include the beautiful and colourful variety found within that category. Without these food groups, we could not build good health. These are the absolute vital components that we must eat in abundance, and add everything else as we go along.
LEAVES: Chard, spinach, kale, lettuces, watercress, bok choi, cabbages etc. I love leaves and think they should play a huge role in forming a nutritious diet. Phytochemicals, bioflavanoids, minerals, vitamins – and more. In my head, our ancestors would have had access to leaves all year round, not just spring and summer. I think the bitter components found in our leaf-veg’s wild counterparts are also an important aspect of keeping a healthy system. The bitter compounds found within wild plants like dandelion leaves for example, can stimulate our digestive organs. Bring back bitter tonics! A traditional spring time ritual for many of our great-grandparents who knew what it took to wake up a post-winter sluggish system.
TUBERS/BULBS/ROOTS: Onions, Celeriac, Kohlrabi, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Beetroot, Carrots etc. These are vitamin powerhouses as well as giving us bulk and starch to fill our tummies and satisfy our mouths. So many different colours, so many possibilities and ways to eat these vegetables. Cooked or raw, a vegetable that deserves to be piled up high on every plate.
FLOWER VEG: Brocolli, Artichoke, Cauliflower, Romanesco Cauliflower, plus Edible Flowers like Borage, Pansies, Daisies etc. Brocolli is in fact a bunch of loads and loads of little flower buds ready to bloom. If you put it in water, it would flower! Lots of flowers are edible, and if not directly edible then they can go into the herbal medicine cabinet.
FRUIT VEG: Marrows, courgettes, squashes, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, chillies etc. Wonderful summer foods. Full of refreshing water and beneficial plant compounds. Here we can enjoy the raw power of these multi-coloured delights.
FUNGI: Button Mushrooms, Oyster Mushrooms, Chantarelles, etc. Lovely fleshy plant foods that add textures and tastes of the woodlands to your palettes.
FERMENTED FOODS: Tofu, Miso, Sauerkraut, Pickles, Kombucha, etc. A food group, why not?! A totally different nutritional composition than any other food group. Bacteria and beneficial bugs galore. We have lived in symbiosis with nature for millennia, now as we eradicate and destroy biodiversity on the outside world, we need our intestinal microbes to be stronger than ever.
HERBS + SPICES: Cinnamon, vanilla pods, turmeric, ginger, basil, parsley etc. Without these, our tongue would be so sad. And our immune system would be weaker too. These add zest to all parts of our body and are actually a vital component of a nourishing diet, not just to add flavour. I could have made a tiny little seperate box for HONEY too and put it further up the pyramid. A wonderful little add on that I’m sure our ancestors would have gone crazy for. However, where does it fit?! I’ll mention it here, as it has wonderful healing and restorative properties that would fit under the HERB category!
WATER: Pure, clean, unadulterated water if possible. Completely and utterly, 100% vital! This needs to be here in the foundation stage, as we can’t build up our health without it.
BERRIES: Seasonal raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, strawberries, blackberries. Nature offers us these delightful treats in abundance throughout the end of summer. Ripened by days of long sun, they give us a strong boost in every little sunshine bite to see us into the dark days of winter.
SECOND LEVEL: These are the foods that add something extra onto us. Giving us some stability and strength. Protein and fat and calories to bulk up our meals and strengthen our bodies.
SEEDS: Pumpkin, sesame, flax, chia, psyllium, quinoa, amaranth, millet, etc. Tiny but substantial and can be used in a variety of ways to thicken foods and add depth to meals, as well as allowing some fat soluble vitamins found in vegetables to become available to us. The grain like seeds offer us abundance on our plates whilst keeping the stomach working optimally.
NUTS: Almond, brazil, cashew, pecan, hazelnut, walnut etc. A real gift from nature, oils and fats all wrapped up in different shells for us to keep and eat when we need those oils the most. Delicious and nourishing.
LEGUMES: Lentils, peas, peanuts, chickpea, butter, blackeye, borlotti, etc. They need to be handled and cooked carefully for us to be able to access the life sustaining goodness in these little fleshy beans. But when cooked or sprouted, they offer us wonderful nutrients and energy to keep us going.
PLANT FATS: Olives, avocadoes, coconut and plant oils, macadamia, sesame etc. These complement all the other plants that we eat, and allow us to turn certain plants into more palatable and nutritious meals
The THIRD LEVEL are foods that we don’t need every day, but can delight in them when we have access to them. They are also ones that individuals can decide how to eat them based on their reactions to those foods. Fish could be eaten much more, and grain and fruit much less if that’s acceptable.
FRUIT: Oranges, lemons, kiwi, nectarines, apples, bananas etc. The less sweet fruits, like the citrus or higher water-content fruit can be a delicious add on to any diet. The sweeter fruits, bananas and mangoes for example can be chosen to be eaten less often as they are very sweet indeed. Nature’s treats.
GRAINS: Grasses: Oats, rice, spelt etc. I decided to keep grains, but put them in a category where all the foods that surround it are up to the individual to choose how often to eat them based on their reactions to those foods. These can still play a part in a nourishing diet as they are plant based, but as they are grasses we aren’t completely adapted to digest them. Yet we still cook legumes, and technically we aren’t adapted to digest them in their raw state either. So each to their own in the legume and grain department!
FISH + SEAWEED: Mackerel, sardines, kelp, dulse, nori, cyanobacteria (chlorella, spirulina): I could have put this category lower down, but I thought that if we thought of the foundation layer as vital for everyday, then the next layer up doesn’t necessarily need to be every day, then this – the third layer can be eaten once or twice a week – which is what a lot of recommendations state for fish anyways, so it seemed to fit. I also think that sea vegetables must be eaten too. I think humans have always nourished themselves from the abundance that the sea offers us, so I think these sea veggies are really important. I could have put them in the foundational stage – but it was a bit neater up with the fish. Omega 3 oils for brain health abound in this category as well as sea compounds not found anywhere else, like those found in chlorella, the first type of organism to take its energy from the sun. Cyanobacteria are the great great ancestors of trees and flowers.
FOURTH LEVEL. I think these foods are completely optional. I think if an individual wants to eat them; they can. But I think to see them at the smallest level reassures that they aren’t the foundational type foods that we MUST eat. I have been a vegetarian for most of my life, but I still added meat to this category because I can’t say with 100% confidence that humans don’t need meat. I think that humans are adapted to eat SOME meat SOME of the time. I think that is natural. I don’t think it’s natural to eat it for every meal every day. That is not what our systems are good at digesting. When we eat them occasionally these foods give us elements not found in any other category, as they are all animal based. I think we can still use these foods to nourish ourselves, if that feels right for us.
DAIRY: Fermented dairy: Yogurt, and cheese. I think our bodies handle dairy much better if fermented. Goat, sheep and cows have been used by humans for thousands of years. But I doubt very much whether prehistorically we would have had access to any of these foods. If your system is evolved to eat them happily, then that choice is open to you.
EGGS: Chicken, quail, duck, goose. Much more likely to have been eaten prehistorically, but common sense would dictate they would be seasonal. However, foods from animal sources can satisfy something within us, as well as our mouths as they add real substance and new textures to plant-based foods. If the source isn’t ethical or right, then I believe they’ll leave a bad taste on your conscience and guilt isn’t something that nourishes us very well as it is a source of stress. Stress isn’t healthy. So, with that logic – do with eggs what you think is right! Also excuse my drawing of an egg there – I feel sorry for that poor chicken.
MEAT: Grassfed ruminant or poultry. Organ meats, bones, offal etc. If you’re going to choose to eat an animal, then consider eating the whole of its parts! It will probably feel right to your body to rotate the type of meat eaten from flesh, fat, marrow to tongue. Each one will offer different properties to your body. Same as with eggs – choose with real care and understanding. Appreciation and gratitude are vital for our health too.
So there we have it!
I haven’t included anything manmade or processed – as I think that we don’t need them at all to live. If we can make it ourselves, then that’s good enough. Bread, fermented drinks, yogurt, and countless different meals – then why buy anything processed at all? They don’t GIVE us anything that the foods on the pyramid won’t give us. I think the purpose of a food pyramid is to show what we need to eat to live – to THRIVE! To nourish each part of our bodies’ cells, bacteria, organs, spirit and soul. This is just my food pyramid – I could have added non food vitals – heck, maybe that will be my next project. The Nourishing Pyramid! Watch this space.
Let me know what you think. It was fun to do, although I kept forgetting stuff. And I probably have forgotten lots of obvious things. This is Version 1.0 by the way!