New Dietary Guidelines: What do They Mean for You?

salt shakerThe last update was to the USDA dietary guidelines was in 2005. Even though it’s technically 2011, the new updates are referred to as The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.

The basic premise of the guidelines didn’t change too much: the focus is still on confronting the obesity epidemic and chronic conditions that Americans face today. In addition to explaining what Americans should avoid, the 2010 guidelines also focus on what Americans should try to add to their daily meal plans for better health.

The Dietary Guidelines are updated every 5 years as required by law. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) make the revisions.

The American Diet is Too Salty

The most dramatic change in the 2010 Guidelines is the recommendation for decreasing daily salt intake. The average American consumes about 3,400mg of sodium per day yet there is only 2,300mg of sodium in one teaspoon of regular table salt. The sodium in the salt we consume is what can impact our blood pressure and lead to other health problems.

The 2010 Guidelines salt recommendations:

  • No more than 2,300mg of sodium daily for anyone with optimal health
  • No more than 1,500mg of sodium daily for the following people:
    • Those diagnosed with high blood pressure (aka hypertension)
    • Those aged 51 years or older
    • Those of African American descent because they are at greater risk for developing high blood pressure due to genetics
    • Those with diabetes or chronic kidney disease

Using the Guidelines to aim for Better Nutrition

The following list are limits or targets that we should strive to reach daily based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

  • Total fat intake: 20% to 35% of total calories
  • Saturated fat: less than 10% of total calories (mono- and polyunsaturated fats may be substituted)
  • Trans-fats: less than 1% of calories
  • Cholesterol: less than 300 mg
  • Fiber: 14 g per 1,000 calories
  • Potassium: 4,700 mg
  • Sodium: less than 1,500 mg for all African Americans and those with hypertension, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease (including children), as well as persons older than 51; everyone else is advised to consume under 2,300 mg of sodium a day
  • Fruits and vegetables: at least 2.5 cups
  • Refined grains: less than 3 oz

Basic recommendations for maximum intake of fats, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, and fiber remain unchanged from the 2005 Guidelines. They did elaborate when discussing avoidance of butter, trans fats and other “solid fats” while also adding the suggestion of substituting with mono and polyunsaturated fats, the heart healthy fats, for the newest edition of The Dietary Guidelines. There are also suggestions for alternatives to substitute refined grains and high-fat meats and more insight regarding calories from sugar rather than just discussing carbohydrates.

The Obesity Epidemic and the Growth of Chronic Health Conditions

The Center of Disease Control (CDC) illustrates how the obesity epidemic in America continues to grow along with the spread of chronic conditions that often go hand-in-hand with being overweight or obese (obesity is defined as a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 30). More than 29% of the population in Michigan is obese — that is almost one in three people in the state.

Calculate your BMI

We know there are things we can’t control that affect our health such as race/ethnicity, age and family history/genetics. However there are some things we can control to help keep us healthier… committing to exercise and physical activity and having a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet. I know it’s not always easy, but we can’t stop trying. Limiting your salt intake may be a good place to get started. What do you think?

Photo Credit:  jaymiek