Stop what you’re doing and put down that soda! The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released January 7, 2016 are the first ever to recommend a strict limit – 10 percent of daily calories – to added sugar in Americans’ diets.
For the average American following a 1500 calorie diet, that’s only 37.5 grams of added sugar, less than what is in a 12 oz. can of coke. While cholesterol, saturated and trans fat, as well as sodium, remain nutrients of concern with similar limits set in the past, sugar is receiving much more attention in the 2015 dietary guidelines – perhaps because sugar consumption in America has continued to steadily rise (National Center for Health Statistics, 2013).
The Dietary guidelines for Americans, released every five years, are established by a panel of scientists from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. Their recommended guidelines represent a science-based approach to healthy eating, supported by the most recent research, and are aimed at reducing rates of obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and other chronic conditions (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010-2015).
If you find yourself reading the new guidelines, do not be confused by the seemingly broad recommendations for other nutrients, namely protein sources. Health and nutrition professionals continue to argue that lobbyists for the food industry deceivingly interfered with much of the language used in the new guidelines.
For example, the new guidelines urge Americans to eat "a variety of protein foods ... from both animal and plant sources," and make no explicit suggestion to limit red meat-- a large source of saturated fat. In contrast, for years past the Dietary Guidelines have specifically advised Americans to get most of their protein from poultry, seafood and plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds and legumes, and to eat less red meat and processed meat to limit saturated fat intake. Ironically, the research has not changed; current findings still suggest that limiting red meat as well as processed meats will help in the management of weight and serum triglyceride levels, in turn helping to prevent chronic disease (National Institutes of Health, 2013; Harvard School of Public Health, 2012; American Heart Association, 2011).
Moral of the story: focus on eating “real” food (and drinks!) and less processed food; eat a diet high in vegetables and fruit (plant foods); eat a variety of animal and plant protein sources and opt for leaner choices of meat; make half your grains whole; and choose low fat dairy products.
Eating a variety of foods from all five food groups while minimizing added sugars, replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats, and keeping sodium consumption below 2,300mg a day, is essential to a healthy eating pattern. Lastly, balancing food intake with physical activity is another key component of maintaining a healthy weight and well-being (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010-2015).
Ervin RB, Ogden CL. Consumption of added sugars among U.S. adults, 2005–2010. NCHS data brief, no 122. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013.
Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, Schulze MB, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Hu FB. Red meat consumption and mortality: results from 2 prospective cohort studies. Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health. 2012.
Renata Micha, RD, PhD; Sarah K. Wallace, BA; Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH . Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus. American Heart Association. 2011.
Torgan, Ph.D, Carol. Red Meat-Heart Disease Link Involves Gut Microbes. National Institutes of Health. 2013 Apr 7. doi: 10.1038/nm.3145. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 23563705.
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