New Dietary Guidelines urge Americans to eat lean, green

2/17/2011, 11:10 p.m.
Americans passion for a diet high in fat, sugar and salt has come home to...

Americans passion for a diet high in fat, sugar and salt has come home to roost with the nations obesity epidemic and high incidence of diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

To battle this malady, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services have revised the federal dietary guidelines to help the country make healthier eating choices.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans announced Jan. 31, the seventh edition, targets sodium and saturated fats in our diets and places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.

The first edition was released in 1980, and the guidelines are updated every five years.

The 2010 guidelines focus on balancing calories with physical activity and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.

They form the basis of nutrition education programs, federal nutrition assistance programs such as school meals and Meals on Wheels for seniors, and dietary advice provided by health professionals.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that we can no longer ignore the obesity crisis in the country.

These new and improved dietary recommendations give individuals the information to make thoughtful choices of healthier foods in the right portions and to complement those choices with physical activity, he said. The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic disease. Improving our eating habits is not only good for every individual and family, but also for our country.

The guidelines recommend that adults 51 years and older, African-Americans and people with a history of hypertension, diabetes or kidney problems limit their daily salt intake to 1,500 milligrams, a little over a half a teaspoon.

For everyone else, the daily recommendation remains at less than 2,300 mg, about one teaspoon. Processed, packaged and pre-prepared foods may have a higher sodium content.

The guidelines also recommend that Americans consume less than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. They also should limit their daily dietary cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less.

People should reduce their intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars and cut down on foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium, according to the guidelines.

Diet-related chronic diseases include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said it is important for Americans to incorporate the guidelines into their everyday lives.

The new Dietary Guidelines provide concrete action steps to help people live healthier, more physically active and longer lives, she said.

The guidelines include 23 key recommendations for the general population and six additional key recommendations for specific population groups, such as pregnant women.

To get the full benefit, officials say that all Americans should carry out the recommendations in their entirety.

Differences include emphases on managing body weight through all life stages and on proper nutrition for children throughout. Also, research on eating patterns is incorporated for the first time, and the eating patterns presented now include vegetarian adaptations.