How Does Your Diet Stack Up to the New Dietary Guidelines?

Every five years the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), a panel composed of 14 nationally recognized experts appointed by HHS & USDA in the field of nutrition and health, holds a meeting to review the latest scientific & medical data in their field. With the goal of helping Americans make better food choices, this panel makes recommendations they hope will be incorporated in the next publication of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a publication with far reaching influences – from school lunches to federal programs such as WIC.
This DGAC convened earlier this year and recommended some major changes in the Dietary Guidelines. Here are some takeaways from their report:
Dietary cholesterol is “no longer considered a nutrient of concern for over-consumption.”
Cholesterol has always had a bad reputation because its name is linked to cardiovascular disease. But there is a growing consensus among nutrition experts that cholesterol in food has little effect on the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Take eggs, which are known for being high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat: with their low saturated fat level (which plays a larger role on our overall cholesterol levels) eggs can be a healthy addition to your diet! They are a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals and choline, which may enhance brain development and prevent memory loss. Eggs are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that may reduce the risk of vision loss by protecting us from macular degeneration. Shellfish also fall under this category of being high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat.
Limit Saturated fat
Unlike cholesterol, consuming saturated fats from animal products will raise cholesterol in the bloodstream. Many of our favorite foods, such as red meat, pizza, cheese, and processed desserts, all have high levels of saturated fats and trans fats, which increase the risk of certain diseases and should be kept to a minimum.
We also must understand that just as we are what we eat, so too are animals, and feeding practices directly affect the quality of their fat content. Grass-fed beef, which contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and other healthy fats that are beneficial to your health, is therefore a healthier option for those who enjoy eating red meat.
Limit sugars to 10% of your calories
This can be confusing since our caloric needs change daily depending on our activity level, but the bottom line is that there are no nutritional benefits of consuming sugars, so it depends on whether we can afford those empty calories. If you are highly active, or have a fast metabolism, you may be able to indulge more often than others, but for most people consuming even 1 can of soda per day is too much.
Coffee in moderation is OK
At the Kaplan Center we recommend keeping coffee consumption to 1-2 cups a day, as too much caffeine can interfere with a healthy sleep cycle, but the advisory committee found that drinking a moderate amount of coffee (3-5 cups a day) “is not associated with increased long-term health risks among healthy individuals.” The panel also states that “coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in healthy adults. Moreover, moderate evidence shows a protective association between coffee/caffeine intake and risk of Parkinson’s disease.”
The take home message? You don’t have to quit your morning cup of coffee, and you can indulge in a refill on occasion too, but while coffee in moderate amounts can be good for you, remember drinking too much of it can still have harmful side effects.
Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with disease fighting nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. And it gets even better…when you combine your vegetables with anti-inflammatory oils such as olive oil, and expelled pressed safflower and sunflower oils you increase the absorption of their vital nutrients because of the fat soluble vitamins they contain. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the more you eat the better it is!
So, how can you starting introducing some of these recommendations into your daily life?
1. Focus on the protective effect of fruits and vegetables, and start having a daily salad with healthy oils and bypass bottled salad dressings which can be loaded with sodium, added sugar and even food coloring!
2. Limit your sugars to 1 occasion per day. However, if you do overdo make sure to burn off those extra calories.
3. Have a cup of coffee, but don’t overdo it on the cream and sugar.
4. Start your day with healthy eggs from free-range chickens instead of breakfast cereals, which can be loaded with sugars.
*Remember if you have any diagnosed medical condition, make sure to consult with your physician before making any major dietary changes.
– Maria Hepler, RDN, CLT

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