Every 5 years the U.S. government releases an updated set of dietary guidelines. These guidelines have an effect on how companies label their food, how school lunch programs are operated, and what doctors and registered dietitians recommend to their patients. The main takeaway points for the new guidelines are highlighted below.
- <10% of daily total calories should come from added sugars
- <10% of daily total calories should come from saturated fats
- Daily sodium intake should be limited to <2,300 mg per day
- The daily recommended limit of dietary cholesterol has been lifted
What does all this mean?
<10% of daily total calories should come from added sugars
The average American consumes up to 52 teaspoons of sugar per day, on a 2,000 calorie diet. To meet the new recommendation, this number must be reduced to about 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day. This translates to consuming about 1 soda or flavored coffee drink per day. Americans have a long way to go with this guideline.
Tip: One easy way to reduce sugar consumption is to cut back on sugar sweetened beverages, such as soda, coffee drinks, sport drinks, and juice. Processed food in general is higher in added sugar than whole foods. Try to swap out fresh fruit or vegetables in place of snack foods like chips and sweets. Reading the nutrition label will key you in on the sugar content of your favorite foods and drinks. For more tips on reducing added sugar, check out our blog.
<10% of daily total calories should come from saturated fats
The average American consumes about 26 grams of saturated fat per day. This translates to about 12% of total calories. Meaning, on average, most Americans need to cut their saturated fat intake by about 2%.
Tip: Saturated fats are commonly found in foods like red meat, full fat dairy, fried foods (vegetable oil, butter), and processed foods. Try replacing these sources of saturated fats with foods that are rich in unsaturated (healthy) fats, such as olive oil, avocados, salmon, and peanut butter. One example would be replacing a grilled salmon salad for a fried chicken sandwich.
Daily sodium intake should be limited to <2,300 mg per day
The average American consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. In order to meet the new guideline, most Americans will need to reduce their sodium intake by about 1,000 mg per day.
Tip: Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and foods we eat at restaurants. Some of the biggest contributors are breads, deli meat, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta, meat with tomato sauce, and snacks.
The daily recommended limit of dietary cholesterol has been lifted
The recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol from sources such as eggs or shrimp, has been lifted. This is in light of research that indicates that limiting cholesterol rich foods will not reduce levels of artery clogging, LDL blood cholesterol. Research demonstrates that a diet too high in carbohydrates may actually be the culprit linked to higher LDL levels.
Many health and nutrition experts agree that the limited consumption of sugar and saturated fat is too broad. Through research, we know that red meat, particularly, should be limited due to its link with heart disease and certain cancers. We also know that sugar sweetened beverages have been linked with obesity and related diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Yet, the new guidelines make no mention of limiting red meat or sugar sweetened beverages, specifically. This, even in spite of recommendations from the World Health Organization to limit both of these. Arguably, these recommendations are left out of the U.S. guidelines thanks to the strong lobbying power of the meat and sugar industries.