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Archive for February 1st, 2016

Throughout the 20th Century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published varied guidelines to help Americans eat healthier. Prior to the discovery of individual vitamins, Wilbur Atwater in the 1890s compiled the first nutrition bulletin. He advocated variety, portion control, calorie maintenance, and affordable diets that emphasized nutrient-rich diets with limited fat, sugar, and starch. The 1940s ushered in the “Basic 7” food groups which were replaced in 1956 with the “Basic Four.” The USDA introduced the “Food Guide Pyramid”  in 1992.

Amplified dietary guidelines appeared in 1980 and is updated  every five years for the general public. The USDA and Health and Human Services now conjointly establish dietary guidelines. Each new edition, compiled by a panel of experts in the fields of medicine and nutrition, builds on the previous guidelines and incorporates the latest information from scientific research.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released on January 7, 2016. Many recommendations remained the same as previous publications while others were diminished or expanded. New information also surfaced. These are the first guidelines to acknowledge the widespread use of caffeine, a non-nutrient, and suggest upper limits for its use. Information incorporated into the new guidelines seemed more contentious than in previous years. Questions surfaced regarding political influence while opposing factions sometimes appeared to have self-serving motives.

These documents are public domain. The complete report can be accessed at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Identified below are the five categories recommended in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  1. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

What purpose do these guidelines serve? Here are a few considerations.

  • With nearly 70 percent of our nation overweight or obese, these guidelines can help people achieve a more reasonable weight for better health.
  • Several illnesses and diseases result from environmental causes. Many of those could be abated or eliminated with appropriate diets.
  • Foods at the check-out easily persuade us to buy foods we don’t need or really want because of visual temptations. Aldi grocery stores declared support of a healthier food supply by replacing candies and less nutritious foods at the check-lanes with nuts, dried fruits and granola bars.

The above is not intended as a complete list. Dietary guidelines serve many purposes in giving directions for the public to remain healthy and extend longevity. Whatever flaws may exist in each new addition, these suggestions can help us maintain optimum health and well-being. The wise consumer will not ignore them.

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