The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases its most recent dietary guidelines for Americans “at a time of rising concern about the health of the American population.”
More than one-third of children and two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese in this country. Plus, many Americans are not getting enough nutrients from their diet, and are eating foods and leading lifestyles that are making them gain weight. Other households (15%) don’t have enough food at home to meet their dietary needs. These factors make the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 especially important to pay attention to.
Dairy was one area of the diet that was updated since the 2005 guidelines came out. Currently, 85% of Americans are falling short of their daily-recommended intake of dairy. The amount of recommended servings of dairy has increased from two servings to two-and-a-half servings for children ages four through eight. For Americans over age nine, the amount has remained at three servings a day. Two to three year olds should consume two servings of dairy per day. The USDA specifies that dairy should be non-fat or low-fat, which includes skim or 1% milk, low-fat or non-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheeses. The calcium and vitamin D found in dairy products is essential to bone health.
The USDA also recommends that Americans load up on fruits and vegetables (specifically dark green, red, and orange vegetables which are packed with essential vitamins and minerals), whole grains and lean protein. Of note, the new guidelines recommend that pregnant women should eat eight to 12 ounces of seafood per week, but to limit white albacore tuna and to stay away from king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish due to mercury content. All Americans should eat fish twice a week for brain and heart health, says the USDA; previously this recommendation was only for heart patients.
The 2010 guidelines recommend limiting daily cholesterol intake to 300 mg. To put things in perspective, there are 212 mg of cholesterol in one large hard-boiled egg, 166 mg in three ounces of shrimp, and 73 mg in one half of a roasted chicken breast.
Sodium is also a dietary component of which many Americans are consuming too much. The USDA is now recommending that sodium content is limited to 2,300 mg a day. African Americans, those over age 50, those with hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes should consume less than 1,500 mg a day. Plus, Americans should limit added sugars, trans fats, saturated fats, and refined grains.
Coupled with exercise, proper nutrition can help to curb obesity and chronic disease, the USDA believes.
Published in Whole Foods Magazine, March 2011 (online 2/4/2011)