Today we think of dairy as a food group. Why? Humans survived for tens of thousands of years without it, and in many parts of the world, dairy is seldom eaten. There are numerous non-dairy sources of calcium, protein, and Vitamin D. So why is it enshrined in our food pyramids and dietary guidelines that dairy is an essential part of a healthy diet?
The food industry has a powerful influence over food policy and dietary recommendations. Chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Willett, remarks that there is no scientific evidence to support high consumption of dairy. He points to economic interests that are driving the three cups a day recommendation for milk: “Clearly the dairy industry is extremely well represented in the food pyramid.” Similarly, nutrition professor and author of Food Politics, Marion Nestle, explains how the dairy lobby, in conjunction with the USDA, convinced nutritionists that dairy is the only reliable source of dietary calcium.
Imagine an alternative reality in which dietary guidelines are based in science and untarnished by the food industry’s powerful grasp. You don’t have to just imagine. The good people of Harvard School of Public Health have made their own rebuttal to the USDA’s MyPlate. Their version, the Healthy Eating Plate, replaces the cup of milk with a glass of water.
Deciphering conflicting messages about what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet is not an easy task, especially when powerful food lobbies rather than science influence the USDA’s guidelines for healthy eating. While it is likely that many Americans have suffered as a result of our broken food system, if you’re reading this blog it means that you have the time to take advantage of the age of information we live in. You have the power to do your own research and make your own informed decisions about how to eat right.