Food guide Pyramid for Vegetarians: Article analysis
In the article ‘modified food guide pyramid for lacto vegetarians and vegans’, the writers have discussed in details about the proposed food guide pyramid for vegetarians. I concur with the authors that the vegetarians are a special group which should recognized due to their different dietary intake from the omnivorous. Coming up with a food guide pyramid that takes into account the special dietary needs of this group is long overdue. Vegetarians as is brought out in the article have problems meeting their daily nutrition requirements especially of vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin D and protein due to bioavailability (Venti & Johnston, 2002). However, it is not all grim for vegetarian diet since it has been associated with reduced risk for diseases associated with overweight such as hypertension. But this should be taken carefully as consuming large amounts of starch leads to rapid weight gain. The proposed food guide pyramid tries to address this issue by ensuring there is moderation in food intake and has also tried to recommend increased intake of food to meet the micronutrient intake in question.
Another way that is recommended in the article for vegetarians to meet their micronutrient requirements especially of calcium, Zinc, iron, vitamin D and Vitamin B12 is through supplementation and consumption of fortified foods. This poses a problem of toxicity especially if there is no sufficient knowledge in the use of the supplements. In the modified food guide pyramid, there is a subgroup of dried fruits under the fruit group that is meant to provide 6 times more iron than fresh fruits. One thing that was missed here is that fresh fruits have vitamin C and since it is a very volatile nutrient it can be assumed to in very limited amount in dried fruits. One key function of Vitamin C is that it helps in the absorption of non-heme iron and if it is not sufficiently available it will to the wastage of the iron consumed due to malabsorption.
Therefore, instead of stressing on intake of dried fruits, the pyramid should encourage the intake of fresh fruits to help absorb the iron found in dark green vegetables. It is also noticeable that sugars and sweets have not been included on the modified pyramid which is sending a wrong signal since they are consumed in large numbers by the vegetarians and non-vegetarians a like.
In another article entitled ‘A new food guide for North American vegetarians,’ the authors have clearly pointed out why there was a need to come up with the vegetarian food guide. The food guide is recommend ably not based on the old USDA food guide pyramid and therefore has grouped food group foods into grains, vegetables and fruits, legumes, nuts and other protein rich foods, fats, and calcium rich foods. Another recommendable thing about the new food guide is that it has tried to provide an array of choices to enable one meet his nutrient requirements without putting to much stress on supplementation and fortification (except for vitamin B-12 and vitamin D). The new food guide pyramid recognizes the inability for vegetarians to meet Vitamin B-12 requirements through the diet and therefore recommends supplementation which in my opinion should be done under expert guidance to avoid abuse. I support the food guides thorough attempt to promote diversity and variety in food intake among vegetarians since it is a good way of meeting the body’s nutrient requirements (Messina, Melina & Mangels, 2003).
In trying to address protein requirements of vegetarians the new food guide has classified nuts under protein giving foods but an analysis of nuts reveals that they contain more fats than proteins and it is only sensible if they could have been classified under the fats group. Since the minimum requirements of protein foods as indicated in the pyramid is 5 servings, it could lead to intake of a lot of nuts leading to rapid excess weight gain among vegetarians.
The new food guide pyramid’s failure to include sugars and sweets among its food groups should be considered as a gross oversight. Since most people including vegetarians consume sugars and fats at one time or another they should be offered clear guidelines on how to consume such foods in the food guide pyramid. The USDA food guide pyramid has taken into consideration this fact hence contributing to its comprehensiveness and wide appliance and it is recommendable that the new vegetarian food guide for North Americans should do just the same.
Venti, C.A & Johnston, C.S. (2002). American society for nutritional sciences: Modified Food guide pyramids for Lacto vegetarians and vegans. Retrieved on January 6, 2009, from jn.nutrition.org.
Messina, V., Melina, V. & Mangels, A.R.(2003). A new food guide pyramid for North American Vegetarians. Journal of American Dietetic Association. 103. 6