60 Plus: Healthy eating to prevent chronic diseases
by Janis Hall
The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been released. Based on the latest research, the Guidelines encourage eating patterns that will help prevent obesity and chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
The Dietary Guidelines are developed mainly for the use of organizations, health care professionals and policymakers. However, they are made available to the public, and here we share some highlights.
The guidelines recommend shifting our diets toward a nutrient-dense variety of healthy foods, while limiting saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars and sodium. A healthy eating pattern can be adapted to meet different people’s taste preferences, traditions, culture and budget.
The guidelines recommend a spectrum of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and other vegetables. Eat fruits, especially whole fruits. Include grains, at least half of which are whole grains.
Also recommended are fat-free or low-fat dairy milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages. Try to increase the variety of protein foods you eat, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds.
Notice that it is not recommended to avoid eating eggs. In fact, the previous edition’s recommendation to limit consumption of dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day has been removed. However, we are still advised to shift diets away from foods that contain high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats. There seems to be some ambivalence on this matter, but perhaps that is not surprising after many years of assumptions that intake of dietary cholesterol was the main factor in blood cholesterol.
Oils should be included in the diet, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Oils are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives and avocados. Oils are part of healthy eating patterns because they are the major source of essential fatty acids and vitamin E. However, consumption of trans fats and hydrogenated fats should be kept as low as possible according to the guidelines.
Shifting the diet to include more of the healthy choices above can help increase certain nutrients such as calcium, potassium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, which are associated with health problems when not consumed in high enough amounts.
Now for the harder part: the Dietary Guidelines also recommend some dietary restrictions, of course.
For the first time in this edition, there is a quantitative limit on sugar intake: Less than 10 percent of calories should be from added sugars. See www.ChooseMy-Plate.gov for more information about these sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing.
Less than 10 percent of calories should be from saturated fats. Foods high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.
Adults should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium. Check sodium content on the labels of processed foods like pizza, pasta dishes, sauces and soups.
In addition to the ingredient list on prepared foods, make use of the Nutrition Facts label which shows not only the calories, but also sugar content, sodium and various types of fats.
These are some brief highlights of the Dietary Guidelines. To learn more on each of these topics and many other topics, read the entire publication at www.dietaryguidelines.gov .
60 Plus is a collaboration between Senior Solutions of southeastern Vermont and the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging. Both can be reached by calling the Senior HelpLine at 800-642-5119
This article originally appeared in the Rutland Herald on March 30, 2016. We encourage you to share it, but please include credit when forwarding, sharing or reprinting in other newspapers or newsletters. Thanks.
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