If you think about the food pyramid from the 90s, you will remember the base of this pyramid stated a suggestion of eating 6-11 servings of whole grains from bread, cereal, rice, and pasta per day. The next tier mentions fruits and vegetables, with a recommended intake of just 2-5 servings per day. In the 80s, the USDA food wheel laid out similar suggestions. Now how did this come to be? Why was the government prioritizing refined carbohydrates over fruits, vegetables and other more nutrient dense foods?
In 1958, a scientist and researcher named Ancel Keys conducted a study in which he was attempting to link the consumption of dietary fat and cholesterol to heart disease. This is infamously known as The Seven Countries Study as he ended up publishing findings from 7 countries: USA, Finland, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Japan, and Yugoslavia. These are the 7 countries that showed a link between fat consumption and heart disease. But what wasn’t revealed is that the study originally looked at 16 countries, and that the remaining 9 showed no link or an inverse association. Unfortunately, he only used data that supported his theory – a process called cherry picking.
This very flawed study not only gained a lot of attention across the country, but had a major influence on the dietary guidelines for the next few decades. Starting in 1977, USDA guidelines were published encouraging a low-fat, high carb diet, and similar guidelines continued to be published until 2011 with the introduction of My Plate, which is a major improvement, but still has its flaws. Interestingly, the obesity and diabetes epidemics, or what has also been called “diabesity” began around this same time, and has left the majority of Americans, overweight, sick and tired.
We now know that this phenomenon is not only attributed to the inflammatory compounds found in wheat and other grain-based foods (wheat is a whole other story for a different day – stay tuned!), but also their insulin elevating effects leading to blood sugar mismanagement and insulin resistance (which studies are showing is a precursor to diabetes, obesity, and more serious health issues such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimers). Thankfully recent research supporting the consumption of healthy fat is becoming more known, and the “low fat, high carb” craze seems to be on its way out.
Unfortunately, this sheds light on a very flawed food system, and the fact we have been taught to turn to high sugar and carbohydrate-rich convenience foods instead of the real food our bodies were intended to eat, but it is empowering to know that you have a choice in the matter…a choice over what you put in your body – food that serves and nourishes rather than harms and inflames. It is one of the ways the Empower Bar got its name: that even though it is a bar that comes in a package, it is a healthy, beneficial choice every time. I created the Empower Bar with all of this in mind – real food, blood sugar balance – and I hope to share them with you.