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The New Nutritional Pyramid – Let’s change the way we eat!
By Francisco Renick, M.D.

As time has passed and scientific knowledge has evolved it has been demonstrated that the previous Nutritional Pyramid, which we all knew and were taught about in school, was not the most accurate guide to a healthy diet. Here we present you with an updated version of the Pyramid, which has evolved to include other nutrition-related aspects besides the well-known food groups.

What does it involve?
1. The foundations of this new pyramid are exercise and weight control. Why? Daily exercise and an optimal weight will keep you healthy. When does our weight increase? When our caloric intake is greater than the calories we burn, this excess is stored as fat.

2. Whole grains: our body needs carbohydrates mainly as an energy source. Oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice are some of the best since they help control blood sugar and insulin levels, blood pressure levels and may also protect our heart.

3. Healthy oils and fats: the good ones are the unsaturated fats, which include olive oil, nuts, avocadoes and fatty fish (such as salmon).

4. Fruits and vegetables: they decrease the chances of having a heart attack and may possibly protect against some types of cancer, they lower blood pressure and increase intestinal transit, among other benefits.

5. Nuts, beans and tofu: these are great sources of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

6. Fish, poultry and eggs: an excellent source of protein! In addition, fish contains omega-3 fats, which are known for their heart-protecting qualities.

7. One or two servings per day of milk (or other dairy products) or Vitamin D/Calcium supplements.

8. Eat small amounts of:
• Red meat and butter: these are located at the top of the Pyramid because they contain a high percentage of saturated fats and, in addition, red meat consumption has been linked with an increased risk of colon cancer.
• White bread, rice and pasta
• Salt

9. Alcohol: Studies suggest that a glass of red wine per day lowers the risk of heart disease. It is not recommended for everyone.

What about vegetarians?
They can certainly follow the Pyramid by emphasizing nuts, beans and soy as their main sources of protein, complementing them with calcium and Vitamin D supplements.

What happens if we don’t follow the Pyramid?
Excessive amounts of saturated fats, red meat and refined grains will quickly lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for a heart attack or some cancers that have been associated with an inadequate diet, such as colon cancer. In addition, an insufficient nutrient intake is related to conditions such as anemia, malnutrition, development disorders, etc.
Therefore in Costa Rica, as in the rest of the world, people must be taught and given the information needed to make smart food choices and in the right amounts which, along with a healthy lifestyle, will lead to a healthier world.

We will be happy to answer your health-related questions, please send them to: [email protected]

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