New Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Mar 10, 2016 08:06PM
● By MARSHA R. SAKAMAKI
New dietary guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture emphasize the need to focus on heathy eating practices throughout life—including consumption of adequate essential nutrients and a calorie intake that supports a healthy body weight—to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
According to an article in the January 18 issue of New York Times, the new guidelines recommend diets with a rich variety of vegetables and fruits; whole grains; fat-free and low-fat dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese; and proteins that contain little or no saturated fats, including eggs, shellfish, lean meat and poultry, beans and peas, soy products, nuts and seeds.
Surprisingly, the new guidelines don’t restrict total fat. It’s important, though, to understand the differences between the types of fats. Saturated fats, considered the bad group, are found in well-marbled meats, butter, whole milk, poultry fat (especially the skin), and coconut and palm oil. Unsaturated fats, the good group, have been repeatedly described as assisting in our goal of better health and longevity, and assist in weight management by reducing hunger between meals. They are found in olive oil, nuts, avocados and fatty fish.
According to the Times, “It is now widely believed that the fear of fat promulgated decades ago inadvertently led to the current obesity crisis when people seeking low-fat foods turned to ones overloaded with carbohydrates, the so-called ‘Snackwell’ effect now largely blamed for rising weights.” This effect is when dieters eat more low-calorie cookies, such as SnackWells, than normal cookies.
The Times article goes further to say that countless large studies suggest that “much of what is produced on American farms ends up as food that can undermine health.” The greatest example is red meat, especially processed meats that are high in potentially health-robbing saturated fats and salt. They are associated with an increased risk of cancer and heart disease. The new guidelines were originally slated to recommend cutting back on such foods, but this advice was not included in the final version due to protests by industry trade groups. However, the guidelines do suggest that teenage boys and men eat less protein.
For the first time since the 1980s, the guidelines specifically mention that moderate consumption of coffee, a couple of cups per day, can be part of a healthy eating pattern. If alcohol is consumed, it should be done in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, and only by adults of legal drinking age.
The guidelines also suggest that at least half of the grains that we eat are whole ones, not refined and stripped of their essential nutrients. Refined grains are essentially empty calories that are not much better than eating straight sugar, which they quickly turn into when digested. Therefore, white rice and breads, cakes, cookies and pastries would be greatly reduced in a diet of someone following these guidelines.
They also come down hard on salt and sugar. The current amount of salt in the American diet contributes to a gradual increase in blood pressure as people age and should be reduced. Most sugar is consumed in sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks. It’s recommended that added sugars be limited to 10 percent of daily calories. To make it easier to accomplish that, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed new labeling changes to require that added sugar be listed separately from naturally occurring sugar. Added sugar is also found in ice cream, fruit drinks and the desserts and snack-foods we consume.
Hopefully, these new guidelines will be seen as an opportunity to review diet choices. It does not mean never having a piece of birthday cake again; it just means that such things require moderation.
The complete 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines report can be found at Health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines.
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