Archive for April, 2011

In a healthy diet, all foods are acceptable within a moderate range. Today, however, Americans consume too much salt, fat—especially solid fat, added sugar, and refined grain. We readily acquire tastes for salty, fatty, and/or sweet foods. In moderation that’s not a problem, but excess may cause weight problems or compromise health.

Americans consume an estimated 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. Current Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 mg/day for healthy adolescents and adults. Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, over the age of fifty-one, or of African-American decent should ingest no more than 1,500 mg daily. High sodium intake may cause high blood pressure and increase risks for cardiovascular disease.

Prepared foods are a primary source of sodium in the diet. Major contributors in order of amounts include yeast breads, chicken/chicken mixed dishes, pizza, pasta/pasta dishes, cold cuts, condiments, and tortillas/burritos/tacos. Other sources high in sodium are sausage/franks/bacon and regular cheese.

Fats, an important component in the diet, contain essential fatty acids and help in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. Fats provide more than twice the number of calories per gram as do carbohydrates or proteins. The type of fatty acid consumed, saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated, has a greater impact on cardiovascular health than does total fat.

With the exception of palm and coconut oil, saturated fatty acids (SFA) are usually solid at room temperature and come primarily from animal sources. SFA increase levels of blood-cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) which may contribute to heart disease. All fatty acids contain the same amount of calories, but monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids may decrease health risks while SFA may increase them. Sources of monounsaturated fatty acids include olive, canola, and safflower oils. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are prevalent in soybean, cottonseed, and corn oils.

Sugars are natural components of many plant foods. Added sugars include high-fructose corn syrup, white and brown sugar, syrups, and others. Americans primarily consume added sugars in colas/energy/sports drinks, grain-based desserts, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, dairy-based desserts, and candy.

Excess quantities of fats and added sugars may result in weight gain and a less nutritious diet. Suggestions for limiting these two food components include:

  • Focus on nutrient-dense foods in all categories.
  • Reduce the amount of fats (trim meats, etc) and sugars when cooking at home.
  • Eat smaller food portions of foods high in fat and sugar.

In addition to excessive salt, solid fats, and added sugars, refined grains are less desirable in a healthy diet than whole grains. Refined grains, even though enriched with vitamins and minerals, fail to provide needed fiber. The Dietary Guidelines recommend consumers replace at least half of refined grains in the diet with whole grains.

There are no bad foods, but excessive sodium, solid fats, added sugars, or refined grains tend to limit intake of more nutrient-dense foods. Look at your diet and see is you make wise choices.                                    

 Source: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm, Chapter 3.

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Overweight and obesity in our society demonstrate calorie imbalance. From the 1970s to 2008, incidents of obesity for adults and for children aged two to five doubled, while the percentage for children aged six to eleven increased from four to twenty percent. The number of obese teens in that same time period tripled to eighteen percent.  Adult obesity increases risks for chronic diseases—type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and other conditions—ultimately intensifying risks for premature death.

The body burns calories in two ways, through normal body functions (metabolism) and physical activity. We have little to no control over calories used through metabolism, but we can control the amount of calories consumed and those burned through physical activity.

Some factors that have contributed to excessive weight gain include:

  • Availability. The average available calories for individuals in the marketplace have increased about 600 calories, primarily in the form of added fats and oils, grains, and milk products.
  • Portion size. We have become an age of super-size everything. It’s normal to eat what is before us. If we choose supersizes—of course, usually at a bargain—we consumer more calories. Weight loss occurs when smaller portions replace those super-sized.
  • Fast-food.  The number of fast-food restaurants has doubled since the 1970s. People in communities with more quick-service eateries tend to have higher BMI (be more obese). Likewise, those who consume one or more fast-food meals per week have a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese.
  • Sedentary activities. Whether in the work environment or engaged in leisure activities, most American expend fewer calories than in earlier years. More sedate jobs cause adults to use less energy. Today’s children engage in more technology generated games than in active sports.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggests the following, based on scientific-evidence, to help maintain appropriate body weight.

  • Focus on total calories consumed
  • Monitor food intake
  • Choose smaller portions and lower-calorie options
  • Eat nutrient-dense foods
  • Limit sedentary activities such as television viewing and electronic games

These suggestions from the Dietary Guidelines will help balance calories to manage weight more effectively. Give it a try.

 Source:  http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm . Chapter 2

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With showers playing peek-a-boo and days yielding to warm sunshine, thoughts turn to fresh starts, whether a facelift for the house or seedlings in the garden. Maybe it’s time, also, to take a fresh look at diet. Dull, dreary days of winter begged for hearty soups and nourishing root vegetables. Spring’s arrival calls for light, healthy, and refreshing foods to stimulate the palette.

Think color. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and pasta, lean meats, fish and poultry, and low-fat milk and dairy products create a rainbow of colors to form the foundation for healthful eating.

Access the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010,  released on January 31, 2011, at http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/PolicyDoc.pdf  They will be available in booklet form after April 27, 2011.   

Mandated by law and updated every five years, the current Dietary Guidelines focus on helping consumers cut calories, make informed choices, and stay physically active. Design of the Dietary Guidelines accommodates varied food preferences, cultural traditions, and customs of diverse populations.

Past guidelines focused on recommendations for healthy Americans aged two years and older. With continuing concerns about health, the current guidelines incorporate Americans aged two and older and include those at increased risk for chronic disease.

Key recommendations in the new Dietary Guidelines include:

  • Balancing Calories to Manage Weight. With two-thirds of the population obese or overweight, most Americans haven’t learned to balance caloric intake with physical activity to maintain proper weight for optimum health.
  • Foods and Food Components to Reduce. The American diet tends to include excessive amounts of salt, added sugars, saturated fatty acids, cholesterol, and refined foods that cause or exacerbate chronic diseases.
  • Foods and Nutrients to Increase. Appropriate nutrients and food selections help individuals maintain a healthy eating pattern within their caloric needs.
  • Building Healthy Eating Patterns.  This last recommendation guides consumers in meeting nutrient needs and educates the public about safe food preparation and storage to reduce incidences of foodborne illness.

To help you and your family stay healthy, follow the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Check this blog for the next few weeks to learn more about applying the above recommendations.

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