Healthy Nutrition Pyramid


Are you watching your Plate??

A food pyramid or diet pyramid is a pyramid-shaped diagram representing the optimal number of servings to be eaten each day from the basic food.

Food pyramid published by the WHO and FAO

The World Health Organization, in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organization, published guidelines that can effectively be represented in a food pyramid relating to objectives to prevent obesity, chronic diseases and dental caries based on meta-analysis [7][8]though they represent it as a table rather than a “pyramid”. The structure is similar in some respects to the USDA food pyramid, but there are clear distinctions between types of fats, and a more dramatic distinction where carbohydrates are split on the basis of free sugars versus sugars in their natural form. Some food substances are singled out due to the impact on the target issues the “pyramid” is meant to address, while in a later revision, some recommendations are omitted since they follow automatically from other recommendations while other sub-categories are added. The reports quoted here explain that where there is no stated lower limit in the table below, there is no requirement for that nutrient in the diet.

A “simplified” representation of the “Food Pyramid” from the 2002 Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation recommendations

Dietary factor 1989 WHO Study Group recommendations 2002 Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation recommendations
Total fat 15–30% 15–30%
Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) 0–10% <10%
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) 3–7% 6–10%
n-6 PUFAs 5–8%
n-3 PUFAs 1–2%
Trans fatty acids <1%
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) By difference
Total carbohydrate 55–75% 55–75%
Free sugars 0–10% <10%
Complex carbohydrate 50–70% No recommendation
Protein 10–15% 10–15%
Cholesterol 0–300 mg/day < 300 mg/day
Sodium chloride (Sodium) < 6 g/day < 5 g/day (< 2 g/day)
Fruits and vegetables ≥ 400 g/day ≥ 400 g/day
Pulses, nuts and seeds ≥ 30 g/day (as part of the 400 g of fruit and vegetables)
Total dietary fiber 27–40 g/day From foods
NSP 16–24 g/day From foods

All percentages are percentages of calories, not of weight or volume. To understand why, consider the determination of an amount of “10% free sugar” to include in a day’s worth of calories. For the same amount of calories, free sugars take up less volume and weight, being refined and extracted from the competing carbohydrates in their natural form. In a similar manner all the items are in competition for various categories of calories.

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