New dietary guidelines urge less salt, more nutrient-rich food

LSU AgCenter News
February 17, 2011 at 9:01 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines, released in January by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, are the first to address an unhealthy public, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

With a majority of the country’s adults either overweight or obese, the new recommendations are especially urgent for consumers and health professionals, Reames said. The goal of the new guidelines is to help individuals maintain a calorie balance over time to achieve and sustain a healthy weight. The guidelines also help steer people away from food containing high amounts of saturated fats, sodium and refined grains.

“These guidelines recommend a shift in food consumption patterns, encouraging people to eat more of some foods and less of others,” Reames said.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood. The guidelines call for less salt, sugar, solid fats, trans fats and refined grains in the diet.

A significant change in the guidelines is a reduction in salt intake for half the population – including African-Americans, people 50 or older, and those with diabetes, hypertension or chronic kidney disease. This population should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium – a little more than a half teaspoon a day.

For those not included in the restricted groups, the guidelines continue to advocate only 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Americans typically consume twice that amount, Reames said.

She says the best way to not exceed sodium recommendations is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and limit foods with hidden sodium such as breads, pasta and processed foods.

Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense and can help people lower saturated fat intake. The guidelines recommend that less than 10 percent of calories come from saturated fats. They also encourage the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as tuna and salmon.

“The old guidelines gave vague suggestions to eat more fruits and vegetables. The new guidelines urge people to make half their plates fruits and vegetables,” she said.

The guidelines also have changed from recommending servings to recommending a specific amount of food in ounces.

The guidelines encourage consumers to enjoy their food, but to reduce the amount. Reames said learning to control portions at home and at restaurants can help people achieve a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

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