Photo Credit: by Skye Sherman
Everyone knows the importance of eating healthy and, hopefully, has established habits related to their diet and exercise regimen that promotes a long and healthful life. However, as research and new information surfaces, it can be good to step back and take inventory of your food habits and update or improve them where needed.
Fortunately, the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services update their official dietary guidelines every five years. As scientific research advances and diet knowledge progresses, these important updates help Americans to better understand nutrition, diet, and how best to live a healthy lifestyle free of disease and illness.
Some worried that because of the situation with COVID-19 and how it affected the government, the report might be delayed or the researchers would need additional time to present their findings. However, they pushed forward and were able to release the new research on time.
Expected to be formally published later this year, the 2020 Edition of the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans has some unexpected changes when it comes to recommended dietary practices. In this article, we’ll review the new updates to the guidelines and discuss the changes the USDA is making due to updated scientific studies and new research by nutrition experts.
You might even discover new information that could help to improve your health and help you feel better as you go through everyday life and meal times. Changing your diet and lifestyle could even lead you to improve your health to the point where you can cut down on the amount of medication(s) you take.
Sneak peek at what’s changed and how you should consider altering your diet
Ready to improve your diet based on the latest nutritional research? We sorted through the main takeaways of the 835-page report so you don’t have to. Nutrition science affects our everyday life in major ways, but it can be a dense subject to study since there are so many different factors at play.
An article in Fooducate states, “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are produced by the USDA, after a lengthy process that includes a review of updated scientific studies, by a committee of nutrition experts.”
That’s how you know the information in the report is legitimate, credible nutritional advice. However, the article reminds us, “Nutrition science changes slowly. There are no big changes in the recommendations, only minor tweaks. For most Americans, the recommendations that are most relevant are to increase intake of greens and decrease intake of sugars. Do these two things, and you’re on the right path.”
As The Counter explains it, the “nutrition report will form the basis of the next five years of federal dietary guidance. Authored by an advisory committee made up of 20 health experts, the report is a review of the latest dietary and nutrition research … Updated every five years, the guidelines help determine federal nutrition policies and healthy eating recommendations for the nation.”
Let’s dive in and take a look at what’s new.
Added sugar is now in the spotlight
Is added sugar bad for you? We’ve long known the answer to that. However, it will be easier than ever to identify foods with added sugars so that you can make healthy choices and avoid them.
Now, added sugars are a required line item on the nutrition label, helping you cut back on the excessive sugar intake that many Americans have grown accustomed to, to the great detriment of their health. The new guidelines also recommend that babies under age 2 should not consume any added sugars.
Men are recommended to cut back on alcohol consumption
Previously, the dietary guidelines recommended that men limit themselves to two drinks per day, while women were advised to stick to one. Now, the dietary guidelines are the same for men and women: no more than one drink per day. In addition, the new report reminds Americans that alcohol is not going to improve your health, so total abstinence is the healthiest choice. Previous versions implied that moderate drinking might have some benefits.
Limit your saturated fat consumption
Watch your saturated fat levels. “The Committee’s review found that reducing saturated fat intake by replacing it with unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fat, lowers the incidence of cardiovascular disease in adults.”
High levels of unhealthy saturated fats are found in foods like butter, palm and coconut oils, cheese, and red meat. Instead, up your intake of healthier fats, like those found in fish, nuts, and seeds.
How often should you eat?
Did you know that your frequency of eating may be linked to your health?
“Although the Committee was unable to find adequate evidence to answer the questions on the relationship between eating frequency and health outcomes, its analysis of eating frequency in the United States revealed a wide variety of eating frequency patterns … Diet quality was higher when self-reported meal intake increased from 2 meals per day to 3, whereas late-night eating often contained food components recommended to be consumed in moderation.”
Avoid the midnight munchies… unless you’re snacking on carrot sticks!
Changes for babies and mothers
Believe it or not, the new dietary guidelines contain recommendations relevant to babies, too.
“The Committee examined how various exposures to human milk and/or infant formula are linked to selected outcomes in offspring,” the report states. “The strongest evidence found was that ever being breastfed may reduce the risk of overweight or obesity, type 1 diabetes, and asthma, compared to never being breastfed. Evidence also suggested that a longer duration of any breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of type 1 diabetes and asthma.”
In addition, new evidence suggests that feeding peanuts, eggs, and other foods considered common allergens to babies during their first year of life might lower their risk of developing allergies later. Exposing them to a wide range of foods early on may also help them to have a more diverse palette as an adult.
New research on trendy diets like the keto diet
While some federal nutritional recommendations have been modified with the release of this new report, at the end of the day, the main takeaway is the same: maintain a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat, and prioritize whole foods over processed ones. If you grow your own produce at home, even better!
Another trendy diet also got a recent second-take. Have you ever heard of people on the keto diet? Essentially, this diet pushes its practitioners to cut out carbs as much as they can so that their body enters a state of ketosis, which means it burns stored fat for energy instead of glucose, or blood sugar. The keto diet requires you to eat quite a lot of meats, cheeses, and fats, such as oils and nuts.
A Fooducate article about the potential downside of low-carb diets, such as the very trendy keto diet, states, “A recently published study claims that increasing protein intake from plant sources instead of animal sources substantially reduces the risk of early death. Every 3 percent of your daily calories coming from plant protein instead of animal protein reduces the risk for premature death by 10 percent!” The study analyzed the nutrition data of over 400,000 people over the course of 16 years.
This is important to keep in mind because while it may be tempting to employ diets that will help you lose weight, the best idea is to establish healthy, balanced food habits that will nourish you for the long haul.
You don’t have to go full vegetarian to cut back on your animal protein intake. Perhaps consider switching out a few meals a week with plant-based meals that don’t contain animal protein. You’ll be surprised by how easy it is.
Foods to boost your immunity
During the pandemic, it’s also important to keep in mind how important it is to build a strong immune system. Many different factors can boost or hinder your immunity. And believe it or not, much of it starts with what you eat! Your diet can play a big part in the strength or weakness of your immune system.
To keep your immune system in tip-top shape through good food choices, opt for ample greens and fruits in your diet. Fresh produce not only nourishes your body but also contains a lot of vitamins and minerals that will improve your immune strength.
Some of the best immune-boosting foods include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, yogurt, almonds, and elderberry. Berries are also known to be great for building immunity. Start your day off with a healthy breakfast of yogurt topped with berries, plus a glass of orange juice on the side, and you’re off to a great start. Dig into a salad with spinach and almonds for lunch -- or maybe a dish of broccoli and peppers cooked with garlic -- and you’re well on your way to giving your immune system a fighting chance through healthy food choices.
Not sure where to start? It’s pretty simple. Make good choices at the grocery store and you can improve your health and boost your immune system all at the same time.
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