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March 7, 2005

University of Michigan Integrative Medicine Clinical Services unveils Healing Foods Pyramid

Healing and plant-based foods build foundation for pyramid

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ANN ARBOR, MI - The University of Michigan Integrative Medicine Clinical Services (UMIMCS) has unveiled its Healing Foods Pyramid, which emphasizes foods known to have healing benefits, plant-based choices, variety and balance, support of a healthful environment, and mindful eating.

Food Pyramid

This Healing Foods Pyramid begins with a foundation of water. A rainbow of fruits and vegetables is followed by whole grains, then legumes, healthy fats, dairy, eggs, lean meats, fish and seafood, seasonings such as herbs, onions, and garlic, then accompaniments including alcohol, dark chocolate and tea. A final category remains empty, awaiting the user's addition of food healing to that individual, to be consumed occasionally, thus personalizing each pyramid.

The Healing Foods Pyramid offers daily, weekly and optional choices that can be mixed and matched to accommodate most people, whether they are free of health challenges, vegetarian or have specific dietary needs. In the interactive, web-based version, a click on a category immediately takes the user to Facts About guidelines that specify serving sizes, the recommended frequency to eat the foods or drink the beverages, information about the health benefits and concerns of each of the categories. The Healing Foods Pyramid is available online at

Monica Myklebust, M.D., director of UMIMCS and an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine, and Jenna Wunder, MPH, RD, dietitian for UMIMCS, developed the pyramid based on research findings from many reputable studies. They encourage people to use the Healing Foods Pyramid guidelines as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle that integrates mind, body, spirit, and emotion.

“We have included only those foods known to have healing benefits or to contain essential nutrients. Often nutrients are best assimilated in the form of whole foods, in their natural state,” Myklebust says. “We hope this pyramid will serve as a practical guide to healthy eating. We encourage a celebration of abundance, variety and nourishment.”

“Contemporary eating habits often rely too heavily on processed foods,” Wunder says. “Such diets often include not enough whole grains or fruits and vegetables and simply can't produce the same health benefits as those recommended in the Healing Foods Pyramid,” she says. “We recommend minimizing processed foods and those foods with ingredient names too long to pronounce.”

The guidelines for the category of fruits and vegetables suggest two to four servings a day of fruit, along with at least five servings a day of vegetables. While low in calories, these foods are abundant in fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Consuming them may reduce the risk of cancer, obesity, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes, according to documents accompanying the Healing Foods Pyramid. Its Facts About Fruits and Vegetables information explains antioxidants, phytochemicals, considerations of pesticides and organic choices.

Other recommendations include:

  • Water: 64 - 96 ounces daily
  • Grains: four to 11 servings daily, emphasizing whole grains
  • Legumes including soy: two to five servings daily
  • Healthy fats: three to nine servings daily
  • Seasonings: a variety of spices, herbs and alliums daily
  • Dairy: one to three servings daily, emphasizing low-fat choices
    • (optional)
  • Eggs: up to one daily, except for people with high cholesterol whose dietary cholesterol consumption is limited
    • (optional)
  • Fish and seafood: two to four servings weekly, emphasizing high in omega-3 fatty acids
    • (optional)
  • Lean meats: one to three servings weekly
    • (optional)
  • Accompaniments: alcohol, dark chocolate and teas
    • Alcohol: up to one to two servings daily – (optional)
      Recommendations are dependant on age and specific health history. The guidelines note that alcohol consumption has risks, but it also may decrease the risk of stroke caused by blocked blood vessels and may lower the risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. The guidelines do not encourage people to start drinking, but they point out that for people who are able to consume alcohol in moderation, it may have health benefits.
    • Dark chocolate: up to seven ounces weekly (optional)
    • Tea: two to four cups daily

“The Healing Foods Pyramid is a practical tool that supports healthy food choices and teaches people that it feels good to eat well,” Myklebust says.

For more information about UMIMCS, visit


Written by Katie Gazella

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