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What’s New in the Recently Released 2015 Dietary Guidelines?

Posted: January 25, 2016

Every five years the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services update the dietary advice provided to Americans based on research accumulated during the past five years. The latest version was released on January 7 as the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.
Every five years, the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services update the dietary advice provided to Americans based on research accumulated during the 5 year span.  Let's see what's new.

Every five years, the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services update the dietary advice provided to Americans based on research accumulated during the 5 year span. Let's see what's new.

While the basic recommendations have not changed significantly, rather than focus on specific foods or nutrients, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend following a “healthy eating pattern” across the life span. It is recommended that this healthy eating pattern should be supported for all, including various age levels, incomes, geographic locations and participation in government supported food programs. The Dietary Guidelines are used to direct funding and content of most government food programs like school lunch, senior meals and food stamps. An example of a healthy eating pattern would include all the food groups on MyPlate in appropriate portions. Also suggested are the Mediterranean Diet and DASH diets.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend that we focus on:

  • variety
  • nutrient density and
  • amount

Getting a variety of foods in each food category provides a greater array of nutrients that our body needs. For example, apples contain different vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than oranges.

“Nutrient density” refers to the nutrients in a quantity of food. A cup of milk contains more nutrients than a cup of soda, so milk would be more nutrient dense.

The amount of food we eat is also important, usually because large portions can cause weight gain. This also includes the amount of specific food provided in government supported programs. For instance, are there enough green vegetables offered to Head Start children?

Acknowledging that dietary changes can take time, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines encourage us to “shift to healthier food and beverages choices”.

New to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines

  • a recommended limit on added sugar - to 10% of your total calories. Research shows that Americans consume an average of 13% of added sugars with the majority of that coming from sweetened beverages. Added sugars include those added to drinks, desserts and other processed foods and do not include natural sugars found in fruit and milk. With 10% being only 200 calories, added sugars are seen as a cause of obesity and increased risk in related chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
  • Limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day or about one teaspoon
    In 2010, those with high blood pressure, selected minorities and those over age 50 were advised to limit sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams per day. While still suggesting that low sodium intake could be beneficial in regulating blood pressure, the lower recommendation is omitted from the key recommendations in 2015. The current nutrition facts label provides food content information based on a recommended amount of 2,400 milligrams per day, so it will be a useful tool for those counting sodium intake.
  • What about fats?
    Limiting saturated and trans fats has been part of previous Dietary Guidelines and continues this time with the recommendation to consume less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats. Substituting saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The recommendation to limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day has been dropped from the key recommendations due to inadequate research showing that health improves with this limit.

It appears that all governmental reports come with controversy today, and the scientific report of the expected Dietary Guidelines, released in February 2015, was no exception. Some are disappointed that sustainability and more plant based recommendations were not included. There is always 2020. I am sure that the committee to create this document is being vetted at this time.

Visit Health.gov to get more information and to read the complete report