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Bringing Home the New 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Posted: May 25, 2011

U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), tells us what types and components of food we should be eating more of as well as those we should limit.

Since 1980, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have been giving Americans research supported advice about how to carry out a healthy lifestyle through healthy food choices and physical activity. This advice, called the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), tells us what types and components of food we should be eating more of as well as those we should limit. The guidelines also encourage physical activity. The guidelines apply to Americans over the age of two, and they are updated every five years to reflect the findings of recent research and medical knowledge. The 2010 version was hot off the press on January 31, 2011, and can be accessed online at http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DietaryGuidelines.htm.

What’s New?

  • Guidelines for all! Previously directed at healthy Americans over the age of two, the new guidelines apply to all Americans two and older, including those with increased risk of chronic disease. Dietary guidance has possible benefits for health conditions affected by poor diet and lack of physical exercise, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
  • Watch for SoFAS! Solid fats and added sugars or SoFAS (a new term coined by the USDA) contribute more than one third of our daily calories with little to no nutrition, contributing to obesity, diabetes and heart disease and stroke. Solid fats refer to the fat found in butter, cheese, stick margarine, vegetable shortening, and the fat in meat. Solid fats are less healthy because they are high in saturated and/or trans fats. These fats can contribute to unhealthy arteries and an increased risk of heart disease. Added sugars include any type of sugar, possibly listed as brown sugar, corn syrup, sucrose, dehydrated cane juice, etc., which are added to foods and beverages. The DGA list grain based dessert as the top food contributing to overall calories Americans consume.
  • Saturated fats and trans fats are still not good! Check nutrition facts and compare products. Saturated fats and trans fats are especially likely to raise your ―bad‖ (LDL) cholesterol which increases your risk for heart disease. Saturated fat intake should be limited to less than 10% of total calorie intake, or even to 7% for further cholesterol reduction. Seven percent is about 15 grams for someone who consumes 2000 calories daily. Trans fats should be as close to zero, as possible. Replace saturated fats with healthy oils, and high-fat plant based foods, like avocado, nuts and seeds.
  • Sodium is everywhere! Too much sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Even stringent limitations on salt added during cooking and from the shaker can’t make up for the 75% of our sodium intake that comes from processed, convenience, and restaurant foods. The DGA recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium for some people, but only 1,500 milligrams for people over age 51, all African-Americans and those having high blood pressure, kidney problems or diabetes (this is over half of the U.S. population!)
  • Choose more fresh fruits and vegetables, decrease consumption of convenience foods, and pay close attention to food labels. Many people don’t realize that sodium is not only in salt, but in many natural and added food ingredients.
  • Even milk and other dairy products contain sodium as a naturally occurring element – this makes it important to check the nutrition facts panel.
  • Eat more of these! The new guidelines encourage people to eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese or fortified soy beverages. Seafood is encouraged twice a week and healthy oils include canola, olive, peanut, corn and soybean oils.
  • Choose Healthy! A general healthful diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, lean meat and poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, and oils. Reduce refined grains like white rice and enriched bread as they are a poor source of fiber and lack other nutrients found in whole grains.
  • Quit Sitting and Start Moving! Our most recent guidance, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week and two additional workouts with muscle building activities. That’s about a half hour per day – can’t you spare that for good health?
Rayna Cooper, RD, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Adams County