They say you are what you eat, and medical research is proving that the old saw is more true than most want to admit. Related to this, the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was published this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the always controversial document contained a few surprises.
Any kind of large-scale collaborative document like this is bound to represent a number of compromises, and nutrition experts say that this is certainly true of the USDA latest dietary guidelines, but the new standards do incorporate a good bit of the latest research on health and nutrition.
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More on the 2015-2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines
In one major change, the new dietary guidelines suggest that Americans should limit sugars to 10% or less of their diet. The guidelines also recommend that you eat more fruit, vegetables and whole wheat, and highlight that most Americans do not have a very healthy diet, and many are overweight and at an increased risk of heart disease and other illnesses.
The new guidelines also suggest cutting salt and saturated fat, but do not recommend eating less red or processed meat in spite of the many studies that conclusively prove that doing so increases the chances of getting various cancers.
The new guidelines are rewritten every five years, and obviously not everyone will agree with all of the recommendations, but the dietary standards are all based on sound science, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
“We want to make things easier and simpler for consumers,” Burwell commented in an interview this week. “One of the things we are steering people to is small changes.”
Of note, in the bill authorizing the guidelines, Congress specified that the Department of Agriculture and other agencies involved to only make recommendations that are strongly supported by science. Burwell noted there is extremely strong evidence that too much sugar has a direct relationship to dangerous conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and weight gain.
New dietary guidelines include recommendation for lower sodium intake
Overcoming a massive effort from the food industry lobby, the new guidelines also recommend that most Americans only intake 2,300 mg of salt a day or less. For comparison purposes, the average American consumes around 3,400 mg of sodium a day, and too much salt is known to be a factor in high blood pressure.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released together with the new dietary guidelines, over 90% of American children and 89% of adults older than 18 consume too much sodium,
“More than three quarters of sodium in the American diet is estimated to come from processed and restaurant food, which gives consumers little choice when it comes to lowering daily intake,” the CDC report noted. “A key strategy for lowering population-wide sodium intake is gradually reducing sodium in the food supply.”
The CDC report goes on to point out that the large majority of Americans are not going to be able to limit their calories to just 10% from sugar or fat, especially if they are going to manage to eat sufficient fruits, vegetables and whole grains.