Time to Freak Out…The New Dietary Guidelines Are Here

An illustration related to the more contemporary food/nutrition portions as outlined by the USDA in 2011. This "My Plate" style of display replaces the previous "food pyramid" used for many years.

Every five years, the USDA along with the Department of Health and Human Services releases its dietary guidelines. The latest one released on January 7th is for 2015-2020. These guidelines are focused on the prevention of disease and chronic conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity issues and one of the most prevalent diseases in today’s society, Type 2 diabetes. Now, I am not a dietician by any stretch of the imagination, but, I am passionate about this subject and know the frustration of trying to read government guidelines. Here is the lowdown on what you need to know about the new Guidelines.

Main Points of 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines

  • Reduce your sugar intake
    • This is added sugar, not naturally occurring sugars that can be found in low-fat dairy, whole fruits and vegetables
    • Limit daily intake to less than 10%
  • Reduce your sodium intake
    • Take in no more than 2,300mg/day
    • If you have a heart issue, please consult your cardiac physician before adhering to any general sodium intake guideline.
  • Follow less of a Western Diet and more of a Mediterranean Diet
    • Reduce red meat, full-fat dairy, and insulin spiking carbohydrates.
    • Ramp up the (whole) fruits, veggies, nuts, beans/legumes, lean proteins, and plant-derived oils.
  • Reduce Saturated Fats
    • Limit daily intake to less than 10%
    • This is in regards to solid fats such as butter, coconut and palm oils, and non-lean meat

Fried eggs with bacon in frying pan

Not So Fast, Eggs and Bacon

As with many things the government puts out, this is not without its controversy. The guidelines gave the ok to eggs once again along with other supposed higher cholesterol foods. This struck a few people in a bad way. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a lawsuit shortly before these guidelines became public. They allege that four of the 14 experts consulted have ties to the egg industry. The PCRM has long advocated plant-based diets. The guidelines also did not go as far as the World Health Organization by categorizing processed meats (such as the beloved Bacon) as carcinogenic. There is also calling for the reduction in protein such as eggs, chicken/poultry, and eggs in regards to intake guidelines for men and teenage boys. Cholesterol has also been removed as a “nutrient of concern for overconsumption” in light of recent studies that have been suggesting that foods high in cholesterol only affect the bloodstream minimally. The American College of Cardiology has come out publicly to state that we need not seek it out, and when we consume it, consume as little as possible. Salt intake is also still a major sticking point. Many experts believe that we still need to reduce our intake to below 2,300mg.

Where’s My Freakin’ Latte?

Coffee lovers rejoice! Much research has been done over the past several years in regards to this magical brew. Caffeine consumption (around 3-5 cups/day) can help reduce cardiovascular disease and has been shown to aid in the reduction of Type 2 diabetes. There are promising, ongoing studies that are showing that caffeine can help with symptoms of Parkinsons. How great is that? When I refer to coffee, I am referring to straight up dark as night coffee. No whip, no syrup, no Venti Frapp.

[Related: The Truth About Your Beloved Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte]

What Does This All Mean?

All these facts and figures can be a Hallelujah! moment or send you wallowing into the Pit of Despair. Really, in my opinion, it can all be boiled down to the wise words of author Michael Pollan: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Have a diet comprised mostly of whole foods, minimize the packaged and the processed goods, and know that moderation is always a good option.

Michele Mack
Michele is an Orange County girl transported into an extra ordinary Midwestern world. She loves to be outdoors (when it’s not snowing) as the world’s okayest runner and aspiring dragon boat racer. In her spare time when not trying to educate the world on her profession, she is a hospital based Massage Therapist and Certified Pediatric Massage Therapist in Columbus Ohio. She resides there happily with her Texan husband, a grumpy old German Shepard mutt and a sassy toddler who strives for world domination. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at the links below.

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