Forget the Food Pyramid. That stodgy old triangle with starches spanning its bottom layer — topped by produce, proteins, then fats and sweets — is promoted by the US Department of Agriculture as a model for healthy eating. But the folks at Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts (901 Grayson St., Berkeley) want us to visualize the ideal diet as a set of concentric circles.
"It's a mandala, and at its center is seeds and healthy oils," said Chris Bauman, an administrator at the college, which was founded in 1989 by her husband Ed Bauman, who is also an adjunct faculty member at John F. Kennedy University.
"It radiates outward from there — to proteins, then 'booster foods' such as seaweeds and spices, then to vegetables and fruits, then to starches, then to pure water and broths. If you start with good fats and oils at the heart of your diet, then you're getting a lot of metabolic advantages."
The mandala will be further detailed in a lecture series, "Eight Lessons in Eating for Health and Vitality," that begins at the college on Tuesday, January 4. The course also covers allergy-free eating, the cleansing powers of complex carbohydrates, and the role of lean proteins and "clean fats" in growth and repair. "Nutrition heroes" and "nutrition bandits" — foods to embrace and avoid — will also be identified.
Just a few decades ago, "managed health care hadn't yet come into being," Bauman. "Illness and disease were dealt with in strictly medical ways. Finally, there was this explosion of knowledge and a new awareness that there might be different modalities from different areas of the world that dealt with illness, disease, and health in ways that are geared toward treating not just symptoms but the whole person. That's what we mean by holistic."
Yoga, acupuncture, and other such practices "are not considered alternatives anymore," she continued. "They're actually considered useful — and the whole vernacular has changed, along with people's goals."
Bauman met her husband by taking one of his classes in 1980. She'd spent two years living in the Caribbean while earning a biology degree and studying coral reefs. "I ate very inexpensively: cheese sandwiches and Cokes. I was overweight, confused, and looking for a new direction." So she started working in a health-food store that sold Ed Bauman's book Eating for Health. Intrigued, she took his class.
Among the top "nutrition heroes" is coconut oil. "It's a saturated fat, but it's the only saturated fat that doesn't have detrimental effects on your arteries, because it's plant-based." Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flaxseeds "are also outstanding, giving you more bang for your buck" than most snack foods, Bauman said.
The college's plan for healthy eating "is not a diet like the Atkins Diet. It's more of a training process in which people learn how to eat so that every day when they get up they know they're going to enjoy eating and they know what their bodies need." 6 p.m., $495. BaumanCollege.org