Since 1980, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every 5 years. The goal is to offer a framework on how to eat for better nutrition-related health, and the regular updates allow for adjustments and new recommendations based on changing research and the nutritional thinking among a committee of experts. We know nutrition is an ever-evolving field. The guidelines become the basis of federal nutrition policy and food assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—that’s why they are also subjected to intense lobbying. From the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, there are a few new recommendations worth noting.
1. New Guidelines for Infants and Breastfeeding Moms
Why? The committee has determined that breastfeeding can help set infants up for long-term health and even reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. Infants should ideally be breastfed for at least 6 months for proper growth and development and should avoid food and drink with added sugar during the first 2 years of life. It’s also recommended that high-allergen foods like eggs and peanuts be introduced as early as 4–6 months to lessen the risk of food allergies.
2. Men Should Cut Back on Booze
Why? Since men are more likely to drink than women, the new dietary guidelines will recommend a maximum of one drink per day for both sexes (current guidelines allow men two drinks on any given day). Alcohol consumption—including binge-drinking—has increased in the U.S., and so have associated conditions like liver disease. And the most current research suggests that even mild alcohol consumption can have negative health outcomes, like high blood pressure, which supports tightening the limit for males. The committee also brought up the nutrition implication of alcohol consumption, as it can contribute empty calories to the diet.
3. Change Up Your Fats
Why? The recommendation for saturated fat remains at a maximum of 10% of total calories. However, we are now advised to swap saturated fat in our diets mainly with polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease, still the leading cause of death in America.
4. We Should Eat Even Less Added Sugar
Why? The 2015–2020 guidelines push for no more than 10% of total calories from added sugar per day. The committee felt that, based on the latest research, added sugar should be curbed even further, to a maximum of 6% of total calories. This new reduction could help reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
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