Yesterday the USDA scrapped their old food pyramid in favor of a new nutritional chart. The new one is called MyPlate, and as you’d expect it’s shaped like a plate. It’s also a bit simpler than previous efforts, divided into just four groups: proteins, grains, fruit and vegetables. And just off the plate is a fifth food group: “dairy,” looking very much like a cup of milk.
But where’s the beer? I say that only half in jest, as I realize that culturally there’s simply no way that alcohol would ever show up on our food pyramid. That’s despite the fact that for adults (let’s remember the food pyramid is for everybody) who regularly drink in moderation the odds are that they’ll live longer than folks who abstain or drink to excess. Yes, that means moderate beer drinkers are healthier, so it doesn’t seem like it’s too much of a stretch to think it could, or should, be included. Unfortunately, most Americans just can’t bring themselves to admit the obvious, that beer might actually be good for us. That’s especially true in a climate where a majority of adults do in fact drink responsibly while a very vocal minority of anti-alcohol fanatics do everything they can to undermine and distort those very facts.
Not surprisingly, there are other countries whose food pyramids do include alcohol. In the French pyramid, they recommend two glasses of wine for a woman, and three for a man, every day. The Greek pyramid also suggests “wine in moderation.” In fact, eighteen EU nations give at least some type of advice about alcohol in moderation. Likewise, the Latin American food pyramid also recommends “alcohol in moderation.”
And in fact, many food pyramids with names like the “new food pyramid,” the “healthy food pyramid,” and the “Harvard food pyramid” do include the moderate alcohol drinking as part of their recommendations for a healthy lifestyle. But as long as the neo-prohibitionists are the only ones shouting about their peculiar disdain for alcohol, and the alcohol industry continues to play exclusively defense, nothing about this debate is likely to change anytime soon. It’s enough to drive me to drink.
The Harvard Food Pyramid