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Essential Ingredients IV - Improving Your Stride Rate

Food Guide Pyramid Turned on Its Side

As some of you may know, the United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA) revealed a new Food Guide
Pyramid last year.  Basically, the concepts are the
same, but they are trying to convey them in a
different way.  In addition, they added a physical
activity component to the pyramid by putting steps
along one side of it with a figure climbing them.  You
can find the new pyramid at www.mypyramid.gov
However, there are still some groups that remain
skeptical about the Pyramid's usefulness.  The
interesting information below is from the Harvard
School of Public Health (very reputable source!):

The USDA Pyramid Brick by Brick

Distilling nutrition advice into a pyramid was a
stroke of genius. The shape immediately suggests that
some foods are good and should be eaten often, and
that others aren't so good and should be eaten only
occasionally. The layers represent major food groups
that contribute to the total diet. MyPyramid tries to
do this in an abstract way, and fails.

Six swaths of color sweep from the apex of MyPyramid
to the base: orange for grains, green for vegetables,
red for fruits, a teeny band of yellow for oils, blue
for milk, and purple for meat and beans. Each stripe
starts out as the same size, but they don't end that
way at the base. The widths suggest how much food a
person should choose from each group. A band of stairs
running up the side of the Pyramid, with a little
stick figure chugging up it, serves as a reminder of
the importance of physical activity.

MyPyramid contains no text. According to the USDA, it
was "designed to be simple," and details are at www.mypyramid.gov 
Unless you've taken the time to become familiar with the Pyramid, though, you have no idea
what it means. Relying on the Web site to provide key
information - like what the color stripes stand for
and how many servings of each food group are
recommended each day - guarantees that the millions of
Americans without access to a computer or the Internet
will have trouble getting these essential facts.

The USDA also chose not to put recommended numbers of
servings on the new Pyramid because these differ from
individual to individual according to weight, gender,
activity level and age. Instead, it offers
personalized Pyramids at MyPyramid.gov.

Building a Better Pyramid

If the only goal of the Food Guide Pyramid is to give
us the best possible advice for healthy eating, then
it should be grounded in the evidence and be
independent of business.

Instead of waiting for this to happen, nutrition
experts from the Harvard School of Public Health
created the Healthy Eating Pyramid. It is based on the
best available scientific evidence about the links
between diet and health. This new pyramid fixes
fundamental flaws in the USDA pyramid and offers sound
information to help people make better choices about
what to eat.

to see Harvard School of Public Health's modified

The Healthy Eating Pyramid sits on a foundation of
daily exercise and weight control. Why? These two
related elements strongly influence your chances of
staying healthy. They also affect what and how you eat
and how your food affects you. The other bricks of the
Healthy Eating Pyramid include:

Whole Grain Foods (at most meals). The body needs
carbohydrates mainly for energy. The best sources of
carbohydrates are whole grains such as oatmeal,
whole-wheat bread, and brown rice. They deliver the
outer (bran) and inner (germ) layers along with
energy-rich starch. The body can't digest whole grains
as quickly as it can highly processed carbohydrates
such as white flour. This keeps blood sugar and
insulin levels from rising, then falling, too quickly.
Better control of blood sugar and insulin can keep
hunger at bay and may prevent the development of type
2 diabetes.

Plant Oils. Surprised that the Healthy Eating Pyramid
puts some fats near the base, indicating they are okay
to eat? Although this recommendation seems to go
against conventional wisdom, it's exactly in line with
the evidence and with common eating habits. The
average American gets one third or more of his or her
daily calories from fats, so placing them near the
foundation of the pyramid makes sense. Note, though,
that it specifically mentions plant oils, not all
types of fat. Good sources of healthy unsaturated fats
include olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut,
and other vegetable oils, as well as fatty fish such
as salmon. These healthy fats not only improve
cholesterol levels (when eaten in place of highly
processed carbohydrates) but can also protect the
heart from sudden and potentially deadly rhythm

Vegetables (in abundance) and Fruits (2 to 3 times). A
diet rich in fruits and vegetables can decrease the
chances of having a heart attack or stroke; protect
against a variety of cancers; lower blood pressure;
help you avoid the painful intestinal ailment called
diverticulitis; guard against cataract and macular
degeneration, the major cause of vision loss among
people over age 65; and add variety to your diet and
wake up your palate.

Fish, Poultry, and Eggs (0 to 2 times). These are
important sources of protein. A wealth of research
suggests that eating fish can reduce the risk of heart
disease. Chicken and turkey are also good sources of
protein and can be low in saturated fat. Eggs, which
have long been demonized because they contain fairly
high levels of cholesterol, aren't as bad as they're
cracked up to be. In fact, an egg is a much better
breakfast than a doughnut cooked in an oil rich in
trans fats or a bagel made from refined flour.

Nuts and Legumes (1 to 3 times). Nuts and legumes are
excellent sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and
minerals. Legumes include black beans, navy beans,
garbanzos, and other beans that are usually sold
dried. Many kinds of nuts contain healthy fats, and
packages of some varieties (almonds, walnuts, pecans,
peanuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios) can now even carry
a label saying they're good for your heart.

Dairy or Calcium Supplement (1 to 2 times). Building
bone and keeping it strong takes calcium, vitamin D,
exercise, and a whole lot more. Dairy products have
traditionally been Americans' main source of calcium.
But there are other healthy ways to get calcium than
from milk and cheese, which can contain a lot of
saturated fat. Three glasses of whole milk, for
example, contains as much saturated fat as 13 strips
of cooked bacon. If you enjoy dairy foods, try to
stick with no-fat or low-fat products. If you don't
like dairy products, calcium supplements offer an easy
and inexpensive way to get your daily calcium.

Red Meat and Butter (Use Sparingly): These sit at the
top of the Healthy Eating Pyramid because they contain
lots of saturated fat. If you eat red meat every day,
switching to fish or chicken several times a week can
improve cholesterol levels. So can switching from
butter to olive oil.

White Rice, White Bread, Potatoes, White Pasta, Soda,
and Sweets (Use Sparingly): Why are these all-American
staples at the top, rather than the bottom, of the
Healthy Eating Pyramid? They can cause fast and
furious increases in blood sugar that can lead to
weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other
chronic disorders. Whole-grain carbohydrates cause
slower, steadier increases in blood sugar that don't
overwhelm the body's ability to handle this much
needed but potentially dangerous nutrient.

Multiple Vitamin: A daily multivitamin, multimineral
supplement offers a kind of nutritional backup. While
it can't in any way replace healthy eating, or make up
for unhealthy eating, it can fill in the nutrient
holes that may sometimes affect even the most careful
eaters. You don't need an expensive name-brand or
designer vitamin. A standard, store-brand, RDA-level
one is fine. Look for one that meets the requirements
of the USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia), an organization that
sets standards for drugs and supplements.

Alcohol (in moderation): Scores of studies suggest
that having an alcoholic drink a day lowers the risk
of heart disease. Moderation is clearly important,
since alcohol has risks as well as benefits. For men,
a good balance point is 1 to 2 drinks a day. For
women, it's at most one drink a day.
I really like many of the ideas conveyed by the group
at Harvard, and I find their conceptualization of the
Pyramid very useful.  I hope that you will use some of
the information as a guide for making your diets
healthier because that will really help with your
training and on race day.

Remember, on the night before, the morning of, and
during your long runs, you should be trying to figure
out what foods in what amounts work best for you.
Once you find a nutrition routine that you like, stick
with it!

Please let me know if you have any questions about the
message above.


The Sports Nutrition "Basics"

1.  Water is a fine choice for most workouts, but
if you are exercising continuously for more than 90
minutes, your body may benefit from a sports drink.

2.  Carbohydrates, which are found in breads,
cereals, fruits, vegetables, pasta, milk, honey,
syrups and table sugar, are your body's main source
of energy.  The sugar and starches in this foods are
broken down by your body into glucose, which is used
by your muscles for energy.  For health and peak
performance, more than half your daily calories
should come fromcarbohydrates, but focus on whole
grains, such as wheat bread, brown rice, etc.

3.  If you regularly eat a carbohydrate-rich diet
activity. However, you should still eat a high
carbohydrate competition meal for fluid and
additional energy.

4.  It is a myth that eating lots of protein
and/or taking protein supplements and exercising
vigorously will definitely turn you into a big,
muscular person.  Building muscle depends on your
genes, how hard you train, and whether you get
enough calories.

5.  Eating a varied diet will give you all the
vitamins and minerals you need for health and peak
performance, but if you don't eat like you should,
popping a "one-a-day" vitamin/mineral supplement
won't hurt!

6.  Iron supplies working muscles with oxygen.  If your iron level is low, you may tire easily and not
have enough stamina for activity. The best sources
of iron are animal products, but plant foods such as
fortified breads, cereals, beans and green leafy
vegetables also contain iron.

7.  Many people do not get enough of the calcium
needed for strong bones and proper muscle function.
If you are not consuming enough calcium, it could
contribute to stress fractures and the bone disease,
osteoporosis.  If you don't like to drink milk, try
yogurt or orange juice with calcium added!

8.  There is no magic calorie level for everyone.
Your calorie needs depend on your age, body size,
sport and training program. If you are interested in
the formula for figuring our your daily calorie
needs, e-mail me.


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