My Thoughts on New Dietary Guidelines

The government has released new guidelines on healthy eating, which are typically reviewed every five years. Without going into the influence of big business on food politics, I'll share my opinion on the positive and negative changes in the guidelines, which are effective from 2015-2020.

The Good:

  • There is finally a recommended limit on added sugar intake, set at 10% of total calories. While I believe that added sugar should be further limited, this is a step in the right direction. Note that one can of soda adds more than 10%, assuming a daily intake of 2,000 calories.
  • There is no longer a recommendation to avoid eggs and egg yolks. They now see that eggs do not contribute to higher levels of cholesterol in the body (all dietary cholesterol intake has very little impact on the cholesterol level in the body).
  • Larger intakes of fruits and vegetables are recommended. I've always been a proponent of these as they are naturally full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but I would shift their recommendation to increase the amount of vegetables and decrease the amount of fruit to help balance blood sugar levels and manage weight.
  • Alcohol and caffeine are recommended, in moderation. I agree with this, as long as one is healthy and can process them well.
  • Omega-3 fats are recommended and there is more emphasis on including fat in the diet, but the recommended level of 5 teaspoons a day is too low. 
  • They understand that one diet does not fit all. I agree that a diet should take into account genetics, health status and lifestyle. Also, the right diet for you today may not be the right diet for you in the future. We need to constantly evaluate what is working for us.

The Bad:

  • They recommend protein intake from a variety of different protein sources and to avoid processed meats; however, there is no mention of protein quality, such as grass-fed vs. grain-fed meats.
  • They are still recommending processed, whole grains, such as cereal. I recommend that most processed food is avoided in favor of whole foods, such as vegetables and fruit. 
  • Saturated fat is still being listed as a bad food. Claiming saturated fat directly contributes to cardiovascular disease is outdated and taken from studies that were based on correlation and not causation (source). 
  • Fat-free products are still recommended. If you have been reading my blog, I probably don't need to say more on this topic as I believe that fat-free foods contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other illnesses. Taking fat out of food means that more sugar is added for flavor. They have already stated that added sugar should be limited so this is contradictory. 
  • Salt intake is limited. I believe that we should get less salt from processed foods but eating a quality, unrefined sea salt should be a part of the daily diet as it contributes a variety of minerals, not just sodium.

Overall, the movement is in the right direction but not enough change. It's unlikely that the government would ever completely shift recommendations as that would be admitting that the prior recommendations, starting with food pyramid, were wrong. In addition, there is a great influence from large corporations that benefit from the government's stance on sugars, processed foods, conventional meats and dairy, etc. In the end, we all need to educate ourselves on healthy eating and listen to our bodies to determine what works best for us.