Stay away from the sugar, America. And please start eating some vegetables.
The committee that writes the American dietary guidelines — updated every five years — just released a massive new report that explains their proposed updates to the recommended diet. This is basically a way of saying “here’s how experts recommend you eat” based on the most current nutrition science available.
And while some things remain more or less unchanged, like the fact that they would really like people to start eating more fruits and vegetables, there were some notes that may come as a bit of a surprise as well.
News to celebrate
For one, cholesterol has been removed from the “nutrients of concern” section. Research has shown that dietary cholesterol doesn’t really affect how much cholesterol is in your blood — that’s mostly determined by your genes.
So if you’d like to eat a couple of eggs every day, don’t worry about the fact that each comes with about 300 milligrams of cholesterol, which was the recommended daily limit in 2010. (They used to tell people not to have more than two eggs a week!)
Coffee lovers can rejoice a bit as well. This is the first time the committee has mentioned much on coffee consumption, according to Vox, and they said that three to five cups of coffee a day shouldn’t increase your risk of any chronic disease — again, basically, saying this is fine, don’t worry about it as long as you don’t get too much sugar or saturated fat (from butter, for example, if you’re a fan of that sort of thing) with your coffee.
Come on people
But of course, we know that the news isn’t all good. A whole two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, and half have chronic diseases that are linked to a bad diet and lack of exercise.
The way we eat is killing us, according to experts, something that some might view as a pretty dark way of looking at things. “I wouldn’t call it gloomy,” Marian Neuhouser, a committee member, told the Washington Post. “I call it reality.”
We need to start taming our love of sugar, for one thing. For the first time in history, they have recommended making sure you don’t get more than 10% of your daily caloric intake from added sugar — which is in most any processed or prepackaged food you eat. (Check that salad dressing label and you might be surprised.)
There’s “moderate to strong evidence” that refined sugar, processed meat, red meat, and sweetened beverages are bad for us, according to the Washington Post‘s look at the report, and the group doesn’t recommend using “sugar substitutes” (sorry, Splenda and Diet Coke fans) as a way to lose weight.
We eat too much added sugar, saturated fat (which they recommend limiting to 10% of daily caloric intake, or having an overall limit of 15% of calories from saturated fat and added sugar), refined grains (white bread), and sodium; and we eat too few vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Also, we still eat too much overall, according to the report.
What this all means
Basically, the committee is recommending a diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts, with some meat being ok (though not too much, and less red and processed).
They’re also promoting what’s considered a moderate fat diet. As Dr. Alice Lichenstein, a member of the committee who came up with the recommendations, told Business Insider in an earlier interview, directing people towards a low-fat diet has unintended consequences and doesn’t really work, but trying to get people to consume healthier fats (like those from vegetable oils and avocados) is a great way to make sure they get their nutritional needs met without any added risk of heart disease.
This set of recommendations is open to public comments until after a March 24 meeting. After that, the group will come out with a new set of official recommendations based on this report and potentially on those comments.
In the meantime, there’s a simple way to eat healthy. To combine a couple of popular quotes from Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman: eat real food, not too much, mostly minimally processed plants — but some coffee and eggs are ok along with that.
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