USDA & HHS create new dietary guidelines & controversyBy Veita Bland, M.D. / January 15, 2016
Well, they are at it again. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have released their awaited five year recommendations regarding what we should be eating. To say that there is controversy surrounding these recommendations is an understatement.
Why is there such controversy? What food we decide to put in our bodies or what food we can afford to put in our bodies is one of the most powerful tools we have for taking control of our health. These recommendations are used as guidelines for school lunch programs, supplementation programs for children and pregnant mothers, so to say they affect our youth is an understatement.
It recommends that Americans focus on eating a variety of vegetables: dark green, red and orange in color.
- Fruits, especially whole fruits (not fruit juices),
- Grains, at least half of them whole grains,
- Fat-free, or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt and cheese,
- Protein foods and oils especially those that are from plant or nut based oils.
- Added sugars should make up only 10 percent of the diet. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk or fruits.
- No more than 2300 mg of sodium a day if 14 years of age or older and less if younger than 14 years of age,
- Eat lean meats and poultry, especially for men and boys,
- Only 10 percent of daily calories should be from saturated fats. This would include butter, whole milk, meats that are not lean and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oils
- Eggs are included as good protein along with seafood, lean meats, chicken, legumes (beans and peas), and soy products, along with nuts and seeds.
- Coffee in moderation can be a part of a healthy diet.
One of the greatest omissions noted by many experts was that we should eat less red and processed meats. Such consumption was denounced by the American Cancer Society which sites research that shows a link with red meat and processed food to cancer. USDA & HHS did not restrict dietary fat. Such reductions have been credited with helping to decrease heart disease.
Many critics of this process say these recommendations have been made over the last 35 years as we have seen the greatest increase in obesity in this country. I remind them that certainly the recommendations have succumbed to the political influence of the cattlemen, the egg board and other food industries. I remind them that convenience food has unfortunately won the day as busy schedules have made the home cook a rarity. I remind them of the media blitz that tempts consumers to indulge in fast foods such as sodas, burgers, pizza, hot dogs, cookies, cakes, doughnuts and processed foods.
It is not the recommendations that are at fault for our increasing waist lines, cholesterol numbers and blood sugars. It is our inability or lack of insight in understanding why diet is so important. We have failed to educate our country to the fact that if we put junk in we will get junk out. You get to choose.
Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Email Dr. Bland at email@example.com.