While it would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of crafting one’s diet around the food pyramid, there are clearly other necessary factors for attaining optimal health, such as regular exercise and adequate sleep. That said, the World Health Organization created the food pyramid in the 1980s in order to inform the public about the right foods to eat and the correct allotment of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins to consume every day. 

World Health Organization’s Food Pyramid 
Although the first food pyramid was disseminated from Sweden in 1974, the food pyramid that amassed the most fame and credibility is the World Health Organization’s food pyramid, which came out in 1989. The 1989 WHO study concluded that around fifteen to thirty percent of one’s diet should entail fats, fifty to seventy percent should include carbohydrates, and the remainder should include proteins. The USDA and WHO make the distinction, however, between free sugars and naturally occurring sugars. Free sugars are those carbohydrates that are sometimes added to foods to make them more palatable, like syrups added to fruit juices, and they include many classes of sugars, like glucose and fructose. 

Clearly the dietary emphasis should be on naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates. As an important historical note, the 2002 update of the WHO’s 1989 findings only virtual change was bumping down the recommendation of saturated fats from ten percent to less than ten percent. The latter dietary suggestion is more attuned to current health findings. 

Move It to Lose it 

There are so many types of exercise, ranging from strength training to endurance training, that sometimes people are overwhelmed enough by the options that they dismiss or discount the process entirely. This is unfortunate because exercise has been shown to bolster heart health, mental health, and sleeping patterns while lessening the occurrence or symptoms of diabetes, anxiety, insomnia, and obesity. In other words, exercise has been shown to make someone feel great, lose weight, and even prevent bad moods from occurring in the first place! 

Diseases of Affluence 

Health experts have dubbed some partly avoidable health problems, like heart disease and cardiovascular illness, as diseases of affluence. These conditions are named such because exercise oftentimes presents a potent and potentially free treatment for these conditions. The problem is that affluent people sometimes live a sedentary lifestyle, which can involve desk work, that precludes but doesn’t excuse skipping out on exercise. 

Are You High? 
It’s almost hard to fathom why anyone wouldn’t occasionally exercise to stay mentally and physically healthy. Exercise actually helps the cardiovascular, immune, and overall central nervous system function more efficiently while improving sleep and mood health. For example, a 2008 neuroscience study demonstrated that exercise improved spatial learning and neurogenesis in the hippocampus while increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Other studies have shown that exercise helps to curb low self-esteem and stress. Researchers conjecture that the endorphins released during exercise act as naturally antidepressants that help prevent depression. Research also shows that anandamide, or an endogenous cannibinoid receptor, might be equally responsible for the runner’s high. Perhaps the best thing about this natural high is that it feels wonderful and it’s healthy. 

GUEST BLOGGER: Luke Annis writes about exercise, beauty & more at www.grouphealthinsurance.org.

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