Features March 2016 Issue

New Dietary Guidelines Stress Less Sugar, Saturated Fat Intake

Cleveland Clinic researchers find that patients undergoing cardiac surgery may have fewer complications if they donít discontinue their statin use.

Every five years the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture issue Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The recommendations are based on the latest research on nutrition and public health.

The guidelines released at the beginning of January, like those issued in years past, have their share of critics and supporters. The latest edition received some criticism from health experts for not urging less red meat consumption, for example.

But there is generally widespread support for a new element of the guidelines. For the first time, the agencies set a recommended limit on sugar intake. The new guidelines say that no more than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from sugar.

“This is extremely important because excess intake of sugar is associated with increased risk of obesity, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes,” says dietitian Katherine Patton, RD, LD, with the Preventive Cardiology Nutrition Team at Cleveland Clinic. “Based on these guidelines the ‘acceptable’ amount varies based on each person’s individual calorie needs.”

For example, if you’re on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, you shouldn’t consume more than 200 calories or 50 grams of sugar daily. That works out to about 12.5 teaspoons of added sugar.

“It is hard to track this because our nutrition facts label does not yet differentiate between natural sugar and added sugar,” Patton says. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is developing new labeling requirements that will include more information on added/natural sugars, as well as other changes.

reduce sugar intake

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Cut the Saturated Fat

Another important aspect of the new guidelines is the recommendation to reduce saturated fat intake to no more than 10 percent. And while the guidelines don’t specifically call for less red meat in your diet, you should know that red meat, as well as poultry with the skin on, and full-fat dairy products are all high in saturated fats. If you do eat red meat, choose the leanest cuts, and keep portion sizes to about three ounces.

Variety is Key

The main goal of the new dietary guidelines is to promote healthy eating for life. And to accomplish that, your diet should include a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, and a variety of proteins, such as fish, poultry (without the skin), nuts, and legumes. Oils rich in unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, can also be part of a healthy diet. The guidelines note that a Mediterranean-style eating plan or a vegetarian diet (that includes sufficient protein) are worth considering.

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