The United States Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, released its eighth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in early January.
This publication, updated every five years, incorporates current medical and scientific knowledge to help improve health and nutrition, and reduce the chance of chronic diseases by promoting healthier eating habits by all Americans.
According to the report, approximately half of American adults have at least one preventable chronic disease related to their diet, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The report aims to help reduce these numbers through healthier eating choices and education.
This latest edition of the guidelines blazes a somewhat new trail. Previous editions of the guide focused on the recommended amounts of food groups. The 2015-2020 edition, however, focuses instead on healthy eating patterns. The ultimate goal is to give Americans some more flexibility when it comes to choosing foods that fit their preferences while still meeting their nutrient needs.
All the usual suspects are suggested for healthy eating patterns: dark green, red and orange vegetables, fruits, legumes, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, seeds, nuts, whole grains, lean meats, soy products, eggs, seafood and poultry. The guide also makes some key recommendations to emphasize how eating healthy and an overall lifestyle change can help people stay at a healthy weight and prevent the onset of avoidable chronic diseases.
The guidelines also recommend Americans avoid saturated fats and sodium, as the average American consumes far more than the recommended amount of these substances, as well as added sugars. One simple lifestyle change recommended in the guide is drinking water instead of soda or other artificially sweetened beverages. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, and soybean oil can also make a significant difference.
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