This month, the Advisory Report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture was released with the 2105 dietary guidelines. The committee responsible for this report had a series of questions that they addressed when creating these guidelines. The main areas of concern were sodium, saturated fat, added sugars and low-calorie sweeteners. These are definitely significant areas to explore when making nutritional guidelines for the American public. What did the committee conclude?
Not surprisingly, the committee determined that based on the average American’s consumption of sodium and the “well-documented relationship between sodium intake and high blood pressure, sodium intake should be reduced and combined with a healthful dietary pattern.” The basic recommendation is to lower sodium intake overall to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Individuals are urged to lower sodium intake and keep it about 1,500 mg (about 3/4 teaspoon) but no more than 2,300 mg/day which is about 1 teaspoon of salt.
Take Away: Although sodium is critical to our health, Americans are consuming far too much of it on a regular basis. A simple solution is to eat whole foods and only salt when the taste merits it. Instead of using table salt, try more unrefined varieties of salt such sea salt, Himalayan pink salt or Celtic salt.
The science no longer supports the theory that saturated fats are bad for you. Trans-fats are very harmful and should be avoided. The committee recommends consuming no more than 10% of daily calories from saturated fat. The standard American diet includes too much fat overall with diets consisting of fast food and prepared meals all of which has increased levels of fat.
Take Away: Fat is no longer being demonized but, similar to sodium, there is a limit to the amount you should consume. Fats are essential macro-nutrients. Eat more vegetable and reduce the serving size of animal protein. There’s no need to super-size anything.
Added Sugars and Low-Calorie Sweeteners
Added sugars refer to the sugar that is added during food processing and in prepared foods. Not surprisingly, added sugars have been found to strongly contribute to weight gain, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. There has been an association of consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks as a predictor of an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The committee recommends limiting added sugars to a maximum of 10% of total daily caloric intake.
Take Away: Type 2 diabetes and obesity are huge national concerns. Start by replacing your sugary drinks with water. Even the committee decreed that water is the preferred beverage of choice. Avoid fast foods and prepared meals that are loaded with added sugars. When you have the choice between an artificial sweetener (synthetic chemical) and sugar, use sugar – in limited amounts. You may want to try a detox to wean yourself off sugar by replacing natural flavors for sugar.
The committee’s overall recommendations of lowing consumption of sodium and added sugar and a moderate intake of saturated fats is sound advice. Eating healthy fats including nut oils and avocados, moderating our intake of animal protein and adding more vegetables and fruits in our diet is the bottom line.
Like Hippocrates said “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”
With the nutritional standards changing, it is my hope that our society will turn around this national crisis of obesity and head us in the right direction.