Holistic Food 'Pyramid'

The main characteristic of the holistic food 'pyramid' is that it integrates general recommendations for the quantity of various food groups with the guidelines that help to choose good quality food. Quality and quantity are two inseparable characteristics of any nutritional recommendations, although the quantities can vary considerably from person to person. However, bad quality food is bad and good quality food is good for all human beings.

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In NINE ASPECTS OF A HEALTHY MEAL we can see that quality, quantity and choice of ingredients are just various aspects of the same challenge when we want to create a good meal. For that reason we cannot focus only on the question of suitable quantities of specific food groups while at the same time 'overlooking' the issue of their quality – as is usually done in official food pyramids and other types of food recommendations. These three characteristics of food belong together and we cannot separate them in practice if we want to nourish ourselves properly! Nevertheless, now we need to separate them in our minds in order to explain what we need to know about them.

Quality Guidelines

The Holistic Food 'Pyramid' contains eight food groups. Each group should be inside the quality spectrum summarised here. Only in this way can quality attain its proper place as the most essential aspect of any food group. However, it must be clear to us that there are always exceptions inside various quality classes, for during food production there are many influences which contribute to the final outcome. Nevertheless, it is of crucial importance that we try our best to obtain food of such quality as is described here.

First important criterion is to choose food which is grown as naturally as possible. Here we can choose from the spectrum of 'Wild – BiodynamicOrganicNatural'.

Note that conventionally grown food (i.e., food grown with use of agrochemicals, such as artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides) is not included on this list. This does not mean that all non-organic food is of the same quality – there are variations in quality here too. But it is very hard for customers to distinguish between food grown with a minimal amount of agrochemicals from that grown with a large amount. So it is much safer and better to buy naturally grown food. [2]

The same principle applies to the choice of processed foods. It might sound extreme, but the only methods which provide good quality food are traditional food processing and preserving methods, such as fermenting, pasteurising, drying, cold pressing of oils, etc. Today this can be done on industrial scale, but for that very reason it is even more important that are these methods as natural as possible.

For a more expanded explanation of this issue see TRADITIONAL vs MODERN FOOD PROCESSING

In regard to choice of fresh food we need to know that this applies above all to those vegetables, fruits and other kinds of food which are more susceptible to decay.  It should be obvious that local and seasonal food has the advantage to be fresher and consequently of better quality – but only if it is grown within the organic spectrum. It make sense to support local food growers, but only if they produce good quality food! However, it is not realistic to expect to go back to exclusively eating locally produced food, for such a tendency doesn’t take into account that we have to free ourselves from the limitations of traditional food cultures. Today we need freedom of choice and an integral part of this freedom is that each person can decide what is 'local' food for him or her – having on one side of the spectrum food grown in one's own garden, on the other side food grown on our ‘local’ planet Earth.

For a more expanded explanation of this issue see LOCAL vs GLOBAL FOOD

Freshly milled flours are also an important part of eating fresh food (see WHOLE GRAINS).

Quantity Guidelines

The guidelines for suitable amounts of specific food groups originate from the awareness that human health is, among other things, dependent on consumption of the right amounts of various foods – that is, neither too little, nor too much! This awareness is based on the knowledge of the fundamental principles of nutrition and other texts available on this website.

For a more detailed description of the importance of right quantities see FOOD AS 'POISON' – Level 1 or FOOD AS 'POISON' – Level 2

The three categories given below only demonstrate that with some foods one can be guided more or less by one's appetite, while with others one has to be more cautious because of the danger of overeating, or even developing an addiction. Ultimately these quantities are mostly dependent on the individual personality and for that reason everyone has to discover the right amounts of various foods for herself or himself. The final goal is to develop healthy eating ' instincts' to replace these guidelines which serve only to help with the attainment of this goal.

♣ For a more expanded explanation of this issue see DEVELOPMENT OF NEW EATING 'INSTINCTS' - Level 1 or DEVELOPMENT OF NEW EATING 'INSTINCTS' - Level 2

Green Group – As One Needs/Likes

Whole grains, vegetables and fruit are those foods which are safest with regard to overeating. It can be left to each person to find out how much they need or like to eat. However, it is important to stress that this is true only for whole grains and all products made from them (i.e. bread, pasta, porridge, etc.) and not for foods made from refined grains – especially for those made from white flour.

There are also two important exceptions in the vegetable group – potato and tomato – which needs more conscious effort to be eaten in moderation, for they can be easily overeaten.

For more information about the issue of potato consumption see LOSS OF HEALTHY EATING INSTINCTS

Yellow Group – Moderate Amounts

These foods need to be eaten with the awareness that it is best if we use them in moderate amounts. There are different reasons for this. For example, if we use too much spices or fats the final result will be worse than in the case of moderate use. We also have a similar example when we use a lot of dairy products with the intention to create a delicious meal and then this food burdens our digestive organs to such an extent that we feel uncomfortable. For that reason it is important that we strive to create a balanced meal with moderate amounts of foods from the yellow group. But again, it is up to each individual to find out what are moderate amounts. One likes more spices, another less. One person needs and can cope with more fats or dairy products, another person less. What is important is that we are more attentive with these foods than in the case of foods belonging to the green group.

Red Group – Limited Amounts

These foods need to be eaten with even more care if we want to keep a healthy balance. Any food if eaten to an excess can be harmful, but with foods in the red group this can be done very easily. For that reason we strive to find what our minimal daily needs are. These minimal amounts need to be discovered by each person individually. This can be done only when we are aware of all positive sides and all dangers connected with consumption of these foods.

With protein-rich foods it is very easy to consume too much of them, but they are essential for the existence of our organism. This is especially true in the case of animal proteins. For that reason it is recommended that those who still need to consume meat try to eat it just 2–3 times weekly and see how it goes. In this manner they can reach a better balance between the wish to eat meat and real bodily needs for proteins. Of course, this is a general recommendation given out of insight that we are in the phase of human evolution where many people can sustain their physical strength without the support of meat. This means that ultimately each person has to find out what is the suitable amount of meat he or she still needs to consume.

♣ For a more expanded explanation of this issue see PLANT VERSUS ANIMAL FOOD

In regard to sweeteners which contain various forms of simple sugars we are encountering a similar problem. Sugar is a substance which has a stimulating effect on strengthening our conscious pole of existence. Therefore it is no surprise that finding the right amount of sweeteners is a great challenge for a modern man. This is especially true in regard to white sugar which is the most used sweetener in the present times. Even when in its natural, unrefined condition it is very easy to consume too much. For that reason it is of crucial importance to establish conscious control over the amount of sweeteners we consume.

♣ For a more expanded explanation of this issue see GOOD VERSUS BAD SWEETENERS

Choice of Foods

Here is given basic information on various food groups inside the holistic food 'pyramid'. At the end there is also a list of suitable DRINKS for regular consumption. You need to keep in mind that all foods and drinks listed below should be inside the natural quality spectrum presented above.

For more information as to why this is so crucial see ORGANIC vs CONVENTIONAL FOOD - Level 1 or ORGANIC vs CONVENTIONAL FOOD - Level 2.

Whole Grains

Seven grains (from the family of grasses): rice, barley, millet (sorghum, also called Egyptian millet), rye, oats, maize, wheat (ancient varieties: spelt, kamut, einkorn, etc.)

Other 'grains' (not belonging to the family of grasses): buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, etc.

Food products made from whole grains: pasta, bread, other baked goods, flakes, etc.

It is extremely important to be aware of the loss of nourishing forces in bread and similar food products made from old flours (i.e., flours milled several weeks or even months before we use them). Freshly milled flours are nutritionally far superior and provide the body with what it needs in the best possible way. One of the best investments in your health is the purchase of home flour mill. [3]

For the period of transition from white to wholemeal flour the use of brown flour is recommended. Brown flour is wholemeal flour with much of the bran removed and is often sold as 85% flour. It still retains many valuable nutrients from the germ and leftover of bran. Such flour is a good substitute for white flour, for it can be used in all recipes where is usually used white flour. It can be also mixed with wholemeal flour in different ratios (e.g. 50/50, etc.) to get an even more nutritious product.

Vegetables

All vegetables with few exceptions (see below).

Naturally preserved vegetables such as sauerkraut, gherkins, etc.

Potato and tomato should be eaten in moderation (as the other foods in the yellow group) for they can be easily overeaten.

Pulses also belong to this group but because of the high protein content have been moved to the protein-rich group Pulses – Eggs – Meat.

Fruits

All fresh fruit.

Conserved fruit without addition of any sweetener.

Note: Dry fruit, concentrated fruit juice, jam, etc., belong to Natural Sweeteners.

NUTS – SEEDS – FATS

Nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, Brazilian nuts, etc.

Seeds: sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, linseed, etc.

Spreads made from nuts and seeds.

Oils (unrefined cold pressed) : olive, sunflower, sesame, safflower, etc.

Fats: butter, ghee, creamed coconut, palm oil, unhydrogenated margarine, animal fat, etc.

Dairy Foods

Milk: raw or pasteurised (shelf life up to 7 days).

Warning: Organic fruit yogurts are usually sweetened with highly-refined types of sugar!

Dairy Products: yogurts, quark, crème fraîche, soft cheeses, hard cheeses, etc.

Warning: Organic fruit yogurts usually contain added refined types of sugar!

Dairy Alternatives: grain drinks, soya drink, soya cream, etc.

Herbs & Spices

Fresh and dry herbs and spices.

Salt: Natural sea salt, crystal salt (unrefined salts with no added iodine or anti-caking agent), herb salts.

Various additions to food made from natural ingredients used to improve the taste of food.

Mushrooms (when they are used in small quantities).

Seaweeds: kombu, nori, agar, etc.

Natural Sweeteners

Concentrated fruit juices, dry fruits, barley (or corn, rice, wheat) malt extract/syrup, whole sugar, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, date syrup, honey, agave syrup, etc.

Note: The only sugar which is really unrefined is labelled as Whole such as Rapadura (trademark for whole cane sugar), etc. This is the only type of sugar that can be counted as a natural sweetener. In Indian shops one can also buy jaggery, the original whole cane sugar, but usually it is not organically certified.

Warning: Organic sugar labelled as Sugar, Cane Sugar, or Raw Cane Sugar, is either completely or highly refined type of sugar!

Pulses – Eggs – Meat

Pulses (beans, lentils, peas, etc), tofu, seitan, eggs, fish, poultry (chicken, etc), red meat.

Mushrooms also belong in this group when we use them in large quantities.

This is a protein-rich group. Cheeses are also protein-rich and should be counted in this group when we are deciding how much protein-rich foods we use in a single meal.

Drinks

(Spring) Water

Herb and fruit teas or drinks (no added sugar)

Soya & grain drinks (oat drink, rice drink, etc.)

Roasted grain beverages, dandelion coffee, etc.

Natural/Pure fruit or vegetable juices (with no added sugar), fruit juices diluted 50/50 with water, etc.

Warning: If any organic (soft) drink, or cordial, etc. contains added sugar, it is either white or another type of highly refined sugar!

Note: The above drinks can be put in the green group (as much as one wish/needs), although there can be always exceptions. Because this is a food 'pyramid' it cannot contain alcoholic drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate drinks, for they belong to stimulants and they should be therefore drunk in limited amounts.

For more detailed description of the effects of stimulants see FOOD vs STIMULANTS - Level 1 or FOOD vs STIMULANTS - Level 2

In a special category is milk as a drink for children because milk is not just a drink, it is a liquid food. This should be taken into account when supervising children's consumption of milk and other drinks.
Note: Adults do not need to consume milk as a drink, but this does not mean that they cannot do so. It is a matter of personal choice, but one needs to take into account that for some people regular drinking of milk can be harmful and for others beneficial.

For complementary perspectives see:

NINE ASPECTS OF A HEALTHY MEAL

ARCHETYPE OF A BALANCED MEAL

NOTES

  1. We need to be aware that there is no longer any pristine land on the whole planet due to global pollution via air and water. For that reason 'unpolluted natural areas' refers to the areas without local sources of pollution, such as specific factories, industrial farm units, highways, etc.
  2. Low quality products can be found even among certified organic foods. This should not surprise us, because good quality depends on many factors, but above all on human skills. A farmer can get organic certification relatively easily, but it can take years to really master new skills. The same holds true with regard to food processing.
  3. For more information about this aspect of food quality see excellent book Super Breakfast Cereals by Katharina Gustavs (Alive Books, 2000).