Seemingly in time for your New Year’s resolutions, the government released new dietary guidelines for Americans. The guidelines recommend a diet with a “healthy eating pattern” that emphasizes less sugar and saturated fat intake, less salt and more whole grains and vegetables.
The goals of the 2015- 2020 Dietary Guidelines are to provide ideal dietary guidelines and recommendations for individuals to enhance eating and physical patterns.
Following these guidelines will help prevent national health issues like chronic disease and promote general health in the United States. At its core, these guidelines highlight the importance of healthy eating patterns within calorie limits.
What’s changed this time around?
For the first time, the new dietary guidelines mark the first time that the government put a intake limit on added sugars. The government dietary guidelines are revised every 5 years. They reflect changes to the nutrition science and are a reflection of government’s official stance on what to eat. The recommendation is to limit added sugar intake to 10% of your daily calories intake. This guideline is based on the 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, so that 10% is around 50 grams of sugar per day of added sugars. Notably though, the recommendations from the American Heart Association put this limit at 25%. However, the government recommendation on limiting sugar is still significant.
Many public health officials and nutritionists blame sugar for myriad health issues including the obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Added sugars are found in beverages (soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, snacks, sweets, alcoholic beverages; deserts like brownies, doughnuts and other pastries).
Key Recommendations From Dietary Guidlines: Healthy eating patterns
The advisory committee recommends developing “healthy eating patterns” that ‘accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calories level. Here’s a break down of what a healthy eating pattern reflects the new dietary guidelines.
- Variety of vegetables from all the subgroups i.e. dark green, red and orange and legumes (peas and beans)
- Fruits (especially whole fruits)
- Grains – with at least half being whole grains
- Fat free or low-fat dairy products and;/ or fortified soy beverages
- Also consume a variety of foods that contain protein, including lean meats, and poultry, eggs, seafood legumes (peas and beans) as well as seeds, nuts and soy products
Key to the new dietary guidelines also are recommendations that are quantitative. They call for limiting several components in our diet. This is because they are recognized as areas of public health concern in the United States. Targeted limits can help individuals achieve health and wellness goals by eating according to calorie limits:
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars
- Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium [add link to previous article]
- Keep your fat intake from saturated fats to less than 10 percent per day
- For those of us that consume alcohol, it’s recommended to do so in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men (adults of legal drinking age of 21 only)
The advisory committee also recommended that Americans cut back on processed and red meats. This prompted energetic challenge from the meat industry. The final version of the guidelines does not make specific recommendations to cut back on red or processed meats. Instead, they stress a shift towards “other protein foods.” This subtle recommendation still limits protein intake from red and processed meats to only 10%. But critics feel that the recommendation should have been stated more directly.
According to national research data, most Americans consume 3,440 milligrams of sodium per day. The recommended quantity is to consume no more than 2,000 milligrams per day. Much of this sodium comes from the foods we eat such as restaurant prepared foods, store purchased snacks and beverages.
Good News, Your Coffee Habit Is Totally Fine. The government just said so
Do you drink lot's of coffee?
The advisory panel just weighed in on America's coffee consumption and for the first time, say it's okay to consume up to 5 cups a day as part of a healthy lifestyle. There is moderate evidence that shows coffee/caffeine intake has a protective association against Parkinson’s disease. But they didn't end there. The advisory panel also said consuming up to five cups of joe every day is associated with other health benefits such as reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
However, it's not all black and white as that. How well you metabolize all that coffee depends on your genetics. Some of us process caffeine more quickly and efficiently than others. Those of us that slowly metabolize may be at higher risk for heart attacks and hypertension. This distinction has bearing on the benefits you get from your cup of joe.
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The advisory committee is made up of members of the
U.S Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They meet every 5 years and make recommendations to inform revisions to the dietary guidelines for Americans.