At the end of 2014, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans Council issued its 2015 guidelines and analysis of what we should eat, what we do eat, and what the consequences of what we eat are. Many of the recommendations and observations are what we expected – we eat too much sodium and sugar, not enough fruits, and are overweight. What was surprising is that they do not recommend watching cholesterol intake any longer – saturated fat yes, but cholesterol, no.
What did the report say?
The main thrust of the report emphasizes a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low in saturated fat. Limiting processed meats, refined grains (white bread) and drinks with added sugar is also recommeded. Good food such as seafoods, nuts and legumes, as well as low-fat dairy are emphasized.
Notably, the report for the first time removed the recommendation to limit cholesterol intake. Prior recommendations were to limit cholesterol intake to under 300mg daily. Instead, it is recommended to limit saturated fat and empty calories such as processed sugars. It is these foods that are contributing to obesity and its consequences much more that dietary cholesterol. Added sugars and saturated fat should be < 10% of total calories in a day.
Saturated fat has 9 calories per gram. So in a 2000 calorie diet, saturated fat should be limitied to 22 grams daily. Sugar has 4 calories per gram. In the same diet, sugar should be limited to 50 grams daily.
For a real world example, a Snickers bar has 250 calories. That is over 10% of a 2000 calories diet. It has 4.5 grams of saturated fat, which is 20% of daily recommendation, and 27 grams of sugar, which is 54% of the daily recommendation! By contrast, 2 scrambled eggs has about 200 calories and the same amount of saturated fat, but only 2.1 grams of sugar, or about 4% of the daily recommendation.
So what does this mean?
The report brings dietary guidelines more in line with current research. We have seen several studies showing the benefits of a Mediterranean style diet – high in fish, nuts, vegetables and good fats such as olive oil. The guidelines now support those findings. It means a heart healthy diet can include some fats, and should limit the empty starches – those made with refined flour that add little nutrition but many calories. It means that moderate intake of eggs and lean meats is healthier than meals based on breads, rice and pasta.
Perhaps the best news in the report (at least for me) is that up to 5 cups of coffee a day does not seem to be harmful!!!
The path to wellness begins with a proper diagnosis