In late Feb 2015, the USDA released its updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These are based on updated evidence, which in nutrition changes very quickly (many new studies published monthly).
1) Cholesterol is no longer “a nutrient of concern” – it’s about time!! Literally, 20 years late to the party!
Evidence for the last 20 years has clearly shown NO ASSOCIATION between dietary cholesterol & serum cholesterol levels. Furthermore, evidence over the last 20 years has clearly shown that there is no direct link between serum cholesterol (i.e. LDL) levels and heart disease risk (here) and (here).
2) Eat less sugar – keep it to a max of 10% of calories per day.
This level is actually still very high. People are currently eating way more than this, so it could be looked at as a step in the right direction, but I honestly believe the problem is that having some leads to having way too much, because it is sooo YUMMY! Studies show it’s 8x more addictive than cocaine. Additionally, there is evidence that sugar & refined carbohydrate intakes are associated with serum triglyceride levels, which are predictive of heart disease risk.
3) Limit or avoid artificial sweeteners – Drink water primarily.
In addition to the “unknown long term effects”, this can be looked at as a gateway drug that keeps people coming back to refined sugar.
4) Caffeine is okay (up to 400 mg/d) – caution with what’s added.
Be sure to use only milk or cream & avoid the sugar or sweeteners.
5) Limiting targeting marketing of sweetened beverages particularly at kids & adolescents.
This is long overdue. It will be interesting to see how this actually works in practice.
6) Seafood is good (even farmed) – ecological initiative.
There is enough evidence suggesting that this is true (high levels of omega 3 in farmed salmon for instance), but most experts still recommend a mix of wild & farmed seafood to limit exposure to possible toxins.
7) Eat less salt – Ideally < 2300 mg daily.
This is nothing new, and is completely linked (like sugar) to refined food intake.
8) More Plant-based diet is better for health & the environment.
I think most reviewers of nutrition research agree that eating more, whole plant foods is good for your health. Problems with this statement: a) Did NOT specify whole, plant foods, emphasis on low sugar ones; They seemed to leave the door open for fruit juices at least for now; b) There is good evidence that non-commercially raised animal foods (i.e. pastured farm fresh) are actually even better for the environment vs. commercially produced plant foods (including legumes & grains).
9) Eat less saturated fat – 10% of calories per day or less.
Certainly not in excess, but 10% is extremely low. Like cholesterol, the evidence does NOT support a restriction of saturated fats at present. Here are 2 very thorough review studies one a meta-analysis (here) and the other a systematic review (here) that both clearly demonstrate NO association between dietary saturated fat intake and heart disease risk.
10) Focus on types of fat and NOT total fat intake.
This makes sense & the evidence supports this, however, one problem with their conclusion is that they (over)promote polyunsaturated fats, which, although good when considering omega 3 fats, does not consider the ratio of omega 6 to 3, which controls our inflammation/anti-inflammation balance. Also, studies have shown that consuming refined industrial seed oils (high in omega 6) can cause aggravation of inflammatory conditions.
a) Sitting too much is bad & can shorten life.
Studies have now shown compelling evidence that sitting more than moving shortens our lives as much, if not more than smoking can.
So, what is the take home message from these guidelines?
As much as possible:
1) Eat plenty of whole plant foods – especially the green leafy vegetables.
2) Eat foods from healthy/clean animal sources in moderation – if you can’t, then trim the fat out & add in your own healthier fats for cooking.
3) Avoid or limit processed & junk foods.
4) Use caffeine carefully & use only a splash of milk or cream – no sugar/sweetener.
5) Sit less.
6) Move more.
Enjoy the show! Talk to you next week!
Dan T & Dave B
Listen to Episode 18 here:
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Things discussed during this PODCAST
Prior post on Green Smoothies (here).
Prior post on sugar being more addictive vs. cocaine (here).
Prior post on living to express your healthy genes (here).
Prior podcast on sitting too much (here).