- - Thursday, March 26, 2015

Every five years, a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, comprised of nationally recognized experts in nutrition, medical and public health, review what Americans age 2+ should be eating. They review and delve deep into the new science and key understandings in order to make recommendations for great health. After a public comment period which has been extended to May, the Health and Human Services Department will publish the final 2015 American Dietary Guidelines, which will take the committee’s recommendation into consideration.

These final recommendations are important because they become the foundation by which the federal government develops national nutrition policy and the advice that our doctors and other health care professionals give us. Let’s take a closer look at some of the specifics and what this means to us, our families and our communities.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Highlights From the New American Dietary Guidelines:

Cholesterol. Previously, it was recommended that we should not ingest more than 300 milligrams/day of cholesterol because it would increase our blood cholesterol levels. To put this in perspective, a single egg contains 187 milligrams of cholesterol. However, the recent recommendations have nixed this limit. Research has shown that there is “no appreciable relationship” between our cholesterol intake and blood cholesterol levels. Instead, blood levels are mostly determined by our genes. This means that egg lovers can enjoy scrambled, over-easy, hard-boiled, or sunnyside-up eggs without the guilt.

Salt. The new recommendations take a “softer approach” to our sodium intake — suggesting limiting it to 2,300 milligrams (compared to the prior 1,500 milligrams) a day for all people, including those most at risk for heart disease. This change stems from the fact that most Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams (making it an unattainable goal), combined with a lack of science to support health benefits when less than 2,300 milligrams are ingested.

Coffee. This is the first time the Committee has mentioned much on coffee consumption. Research has shown that 3-5 cups of coffee a day (up to 400 mg of caffeine a day) is not associated with increased long-term health risks. In fact, coffee consumption is associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiovascular disease. But be cautious of additives—milk, cream, sugar—that can be laden with fat and calories.

Sugar. For the first time in history, the Committee is suggesting limiting sugar consumption to less than 10 percent of our daily caloric intake (this is equal to 200 calories, or 50 grams of sugar). Because a significant portion of added sugar comes from hidden sources such as soda (on average, one can of regular soda contains 40 grams), sweet tea and energy drinks, make sure to check labels! The new guidelines are recommending replacing these drink items with water and making water more readily available at schools, work and public places. Additionally, they are not recommending replacing sugar with low-calorie/artificial sweeteners.

Saturated fat. This term describes fats that are typically solid at room temperature because they lack double bonds between carbon molecules. Saturated fats are mostly found from animal sources and include fatty beef, lamb, poultry with skin, lard, cheese, whole and 2 percent milk, and cream. Increased consumption has been shown to raise blood cholesterol levels. And in turn, that can increase the risk for fatty plaque buildup within vessel walls (atherosclerosis) that obstructs blood flow and oxygen delivery. The new guidelines recommend limiting these fats to 10 percent of daily caloric intake (200 calories), or roughly less than 22 grams a day.

Alcohol. Moderate alcohol intake may be a component of a healthy dietary pattern, as long as it is consumed in moderation and only by adults. They do not recommend that anyone start drinking or drink more frequently, because moderate alcohol intake is also associated with an increased risk of violence, drowning and injuries. Additionally, women should be aware that it may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

What all of this “simmers” or “boils” down to is a diet that includes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts, with some meat being OK (though not too much, and less red and processed). The theme is to “shift” eating patterns by replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat (olive oil, avocados) and sugary drinks with water.

Let’s remember, “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison” – Ann Wigmore.

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