If you are wondering what you should eat to stay healthy or you are looking for guidelines for a healthy lifestyle, then look no further than to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Guidelines is a publication issued jointly every 5 years by the United States Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) of the government. It is the product of a thorough process of collecting and reviewing the latest scientific research on diet and nutrition; then using these findings to develop the Guidelines to serve as a source of dietary health information for policy makers, nutrition educators and health providers.
Revised every five years to reflect current scientific knowledge, the Guidelines offer adults, children over two years of age and specific populations advice for healthy food choices and a healthy active life, as well as encourage dietary habits that may reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The basic premise of the Guidelines is that nutrient needs should be met by eating a balanced diet of foods that provide a variety of nutrients and other compounds that may have beneficial effects on health:
The Guidelines are grouped into nine general topics and include 41 key recommendations, of which 23 are for the general public and 18 are for specific populations (e.g., children, pregnant or breast-feeding women, overweight adults, older adults). The latest revision places a stronger emphasis on control and calorie since almost two-thirds of Americans are physical activity or overweight and more than half get too little physical activity. The nine general topics are as follows: obese Adequate nutrients within calorie needs Weight management Physical activity Food groups to encourage Fats Carbohydrates Sodium and potassium Alcoholic beverages Food safety The Dietary Guidelines described in this Patient Guide are not designed to determine how much food you should eat. In fact, there are variations in nutritional requirements and recommendations. For example, nutritional needs vary for older adults and for people with certain medical conditions. In addition, unlike previous versions, the latest publication of the Dietary Guidelines contains much more technical information and therefore was geared toward healthcare providers and policy makers instead of the general public. Therefore, everyone is encouraged to consult with their physician before making any dietary changes.
How can a balanced diet affect heart health?
Overall wellness and nutrition go hand-in-hand. For this reason, the Dietary Guidelines were developed to serve as the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policies and programs. They emphasize achieving a healthy weight, daily , and eating a variety of foods while limiting the intake of physical activity , saturated fat , trans fat , added sugars, cholesterol and salt . The alcohol Guidelines are geared to reduce your risk of chronic diseases that are prevalent in America, such as , heart disease , stroke (hypertension), high blood pressure , diabetes and certain cancers. In addition, the latest version of the Guidelines aims to reduce the growing problems of obesity and physical inactivity. osteoporosis
For example, consuming a diet high in saturated fat causes the body to produce more ("bad") cholesterol -- a major contributor to the build-up of LDL in the plaque . As plaque hardens in the arteries (a process called a process called arteries ), one's risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis and or stroke increases. Eating too many calories also can contribute to weight gain -- a serious problem in the United States and much of the industrialized world. heart attack (defined as a Obesity [BMI] of over 30) can strain the heart muscle and lead to the development of serious cardiovascular conditions. Body Mass Index
The new Guidelines encourage fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat free milk products. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables -- the main components of a -- are foods that are naturally low in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugars and heart-healthy diet or salt. Sodium, most commonly recognized in our diets as table salt, can contribute to high blood pressure. By eating these foods without adding additional salt (table salt), it is likely that an adequate amount of salt will be consumed while limiting the risk of high blood pressure. These foods are also a natural source of the essential and nonessential sodium needed to lead healthy, active lives. For many with an over-reliance on costly dietary supplements, a balanced diet can be a natural and economical alternative. vitamins and minerals
Finally, the Dietary Guidelines de-emphasize sweets, sugar-filled foods and alcohol. Sugar is full of "empty" calories -- providing energy without a significant amount of the nutrients that we need. By eating nutrient-rich foods rather than "empty calories" found in sugar, we are more likely to obtain our daily nutritional needs, achieve healthy bodies and reduce our risk for chronic diseases. To learn more, see . Sugars, Substitutes & Artificial Sweeteners
What is the purpose of the Dietary Guidelines?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is an initiative developed by the United States Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) to gather the most current scientific research on diet and nutrition, and to identify how dietary practices can affect one's risk for chronic illness and disease. After a thorough process of expert committee hearings and public meetings, recommendations in the form of dietary guidelines are published. The Guidelines, an important part of Federal nutrition policy and public education programs, are written in plain language and provide action steps for Americans to take in their pursuit of good overall health and fitness.
The Guidelines were first issued in 1980 and, by law, are reviewed and updated (as necessary) every five years. This ensures that the recommendations follow the prevailing scientific and medical findings on nutritional issues for adults and children over age two. They define national nutrition policies and are used to determine the content of School Lunch and other Federal nutrition programs.
Specific uses for the Dietary Guidelines include: Development of educational materials Development of nutrition-related programs such as the National Child Nutrition Programs or the Elderly Nutrition Program The sixth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released by the Federal Government in January, 2005. They address healthy eating, increasing physical activity and safe food handling to promote wellness and reduce risk of chronic disease. They are designed to meet the needs of Americans 2 years of age and older and therefore not appropriate for infants or toddlers younger than 2.
The updated Guidelines move beyond the previous guidelines which were limited in scope to healthy eating and foods, and accentuate the importance of good dietary habits as a key to reducing the growing problems of obesity and physical inactivity. The Guidelines hope to tackle the obesity epidemic by placing stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.
What are the Guidelines for calories, weight and exercise?
The Dietary Guidelines offers nine key recommendations for the general population. The first three deal with calorie needs, weight management and the role of physical activity. A brief overview of these guidelines is as follows: Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie NeedsAlmost two-thirds of Americans are or overweight . Many Americans consume too many calories, too much saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars and salt. In addition, they are not meeting recommended intakes for a number of nutrients necessary for good health. According to the latest research intake levels for calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E may be a concern for children and adolescents. For adults, intake levels of the same nutrients and vitamins A and C are of concern. To learn more about recommended intakes of nutrients, see obese . Dietary Reference Intakes
To meet nutrient needs without excess calorie intake, the Dietary Guidelines recommend adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as the Food Guide MyPyramid or the DASH eating plan. In general, both meal patterns encourage consuming vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free milk products, while avoiding refined grains, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and salt. Weight Management The incidence of obesity in the United States has doubled in the past two decades. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help to decrease your risk for To maintain body weight in a healthy range, balance calories from foods and beverages with calories expended. To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity. , high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure , heart disease , type 2 stroke , gallbladder disease, gout, respiratory disfunction, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer. There are different methods to determine healthy weight for children and adults. One useful tool is the diabetes . body mass index
Balancing the calories we eat with the calories we expand through our daily activities will help in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. One way to achieve a healthy weight is by making sensible food choices and controlling . Since most adults gain weight slowly overtime, a reduction of 50 to 100 calories per day may prevent this gradual weight gain. For weight loss, a reduction of 500 calories a day, while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet is a common goal. Also, if you are sedentary, work toward increasing your level of activity. portion sizes Physical Activity For healthy American adults that want to improve their fitness level and reduce the risk of chronic disease, experts suggest accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate to intense activity on most days of the week. However, this may not be enough to achieve or maintain weight loss and individual needs may vary. For most people, additional health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or for longer duration. Engage in regular and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight. physical activity Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.
Up to 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day may be needed to prevent gradual, unhealthy weight gain in adulthood. And, to sustain weight loss for previously overweight people, 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day is recommended. Men older than 40, women above 50 years of age or any adult with a chronic disease or at risk for a chronic disease should consult their healthcare provider prior to starting an exercise program.
A balanced diet and daily physical activity can improve fitness, help to achieve or maintain a healthy weight and can contribute to improving one's overall health. Exercise is not only an excellent tool in the prevention of heart disease, but it also offers dramatic benefits for heart patients. Physically, it can slow or even reverse the process of , as well as lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. Emotionally, it can reduce levels of atherosclerosis and stress . depression
What are the Guidelines for food groups and nutrients?
Of the nine key recommendations for the general population, four through seven deal with the need to balance food groups and obtain healthy amounts of specific nutrients (fats, carbohydrates, sodium and potassium). A brief overview of these guidelines is as follows: Food Groups to Encourage Different foods contribute different nutrients to your diet. Therefore, it is important to eat a variety of foods each and every day. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and milk products are all important to a healthful diet. Diets high in these foods are associated with reduced chronic disease risk. In addition, these food groups contribute many of the nutrients of concern in the American diet, such as fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C and E. It is important to remember to decrease your intake of less nutrient-dense foods while increasing your intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk products to control overall daily calorie intake and avoid unwanted weight gain. Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups (473 milliliters [ml]) of fruit and 2½ cups (592 ml) of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000 intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level. calorie Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week. Consume 3 or more ounce-equivalents (85 grams) of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half of the grains should come from whole grains. Consume 3 cups (710 ml) per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.
Fruits and vegetables provide a variety of micronutrients and fiber. Four and one-half cups (1.1 liters) of fruits and vegetables daily are recommended for the reference 2000-calorie level. Depending on one's calorie level daily fruit and vegetable intake recommendations will vary. It is important to remember that different fruits and vegetables are rich in different nutrients. Therefore, the Guidelines recommend consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Whole grains provide different amounts of nutrients and then those found in refined grains. The fiber found in the whole grains, as well as in fruits and vegetables, promotes good bowel function and may lower the risk of some cancers and fiber . Consuming at least 3 or more ounce-equivalents (85 grams) of whole grains per day can reduce the risk of several chronic diseases and may help with weight maintenance. Since consuming this amount may be difficult for younger children, the Guidelines recommend that all age groups should consume at least half the grains as whole grains. Some examples of whole grain foods include whole wheat, whole oats/oatmeal, whole-grain corn, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa and sorghum. heart disease
Daily intake of adequate milk products is especially important during childhood and adolescence. For those individuals who choose to or must avoid milk products, non-dairy calcium rich foods should be included to meet calcium needs. Some examples include: Fortified ready-to-eat cereals Calcium-fortified soy beverages Sardines Tofu Canned salmon with bones Spinach Collard greens Soybeans Turnip greens White beans Fats Fats in the foods we eat provide energy in the form of, essential Consume less than 10 percent of calories from and less than 300 milligrams (mg) per day of saturated fatty acids , and keep cholesterol consumption as low as possible. trans fatty acid Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of and polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. monounsaturated Limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated and/or trans fatty acids, and choose products low in such . fats and oils and help in the absorption of fat-soluble fatty acids . However, too much fat (total fat in diet), saturated fat and trans fat in one's diet may increase blood cholesterol levels and our risk for vitamins . The heart disease Guidelines recommend choosing a well-balanced low in saturated and trans fats as well as low in total fat and cholesterol. The heart-healthy diet Guidelines recommend limiting solid fats such as butter, margarine, and also "partially hydrogenated" shortenings which can help to reduce our intake of saturated and trans fats. To learn more about choosing spreads, see . Margarine, Butter & Other Spreads
They recommend substituting vegetable oils (high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) rather than the butter, margarine or lard (high in saturated or trans fats) and to choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean meats, fish, poultry, beans and peas to get essential nutrients without excess calories or unhealthy fats. Overall, these guidelines recommend following a diet that limits total fat intake to less than 35 percent of daily calories and saturated fat to less than 10 percent of daily calories. To learn more about this topic, see . Fats & Oils Carbohydrates According to the USDA's Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole-grains often. Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners. Reduce the incidence of dental caries by practicing good oral hygiene and consuming sugar- and starch-containing foods less frequently. per capita food consumption database Americans are consuming 25 percent more added sugars than in they did 1970. Most of the added sugar comes in the form of soft drinks and fruit drinks. Cookies, cakes, other baked goods, candy, breakfast cereals and ice cream are other sources of added sugars in our diets. Unfortunately, these foods or drinks contribute a significant source of added calories and few if any nutrients. Added sugars can promote tooth decay and may contribute to excessive calorie intake and weight gain.
The Guidelines recommend choosing sensibly to avoid excess sugar intake by limiting foods with added sugars. Common names for added sugars are brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, invert sugar, sucrose, table sugar. If any of these added sugars appears first or second on the ingredients list, or if several of these are listed, then the food is likely to be high in added sugars. To learn more, see . Sugars, Substitutes & Artificial Sweeteners
The Guidelines encourage consuming at least half the recommended grain servings as whole grains -- instead of refined grains or simple sugars -- to meet fiber recommendations. In addition, choose carbohydrates from the basic food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, grains and milk, which are a source of many other nutrients. Sodium and Potassium The salt ( Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) of sodium per day. Choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. sodium chloride) found in the foods we eat can play a significant role in regulating our and our fluid status. Decreasing salt intake is recommended to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, which in turn can increase one's risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease. blood pressure
To prevent or delay the onset of high blood pressure, the Guidelines recommend lifestyle changes such as reducing salt intake, increasing potassium intake, losing excess body weight, increasing physical activity and eating an overall healthful diet.
Approximately 75 percent of our total salt intake comes from processed or prepared foods. Our bodies only require about half of a gram of sodium per day, and the Guidelines recommend that people consume no more than 2.3 grams of sodium per day. Unfortunately, the average American consumes at least nine grams of sodium per day, with many Americans eating more than 12 grams on a daily basis. Therefore, most Americans would benefit from reducing their salt intake.
To reduce your salt intake read food labels, choose foods that are labeled "low in sodium" or "low salt," eat fresh fruits and vegetables and refrain from adding salt when cooking or eating. For more strategies to reduce salt intake, see . Salt & Your Heart
Another strategy to lower blood pressure is to consume a diet rich in potassium. Potassium-rich foods include fruits and vegetables such as green leafy vegetables, fruit from vines, and root vegetables.
What are the Guidelines for alcohol and food safety?
The last two of the nine key recommendations for the general population, deal with alcoholic beverages and general food safety. A brief overview of these guidelines is as follows: Alcoholic Beverages The Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation -- defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their intake, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol, and those with specific medical conditions. alcohol Alcoholic beverages should be avoided by individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery. Guidelines recommend drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all. Alcoholic beverages are a source of calories with few or no nutrients. They can be harmful and hazardous to one's health when consumed in excess. Moderation is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. One drink is defined as 12 ounces (355 ml) of beer, 5 ounces (148 ml) of wine or 1-1/2 ounces (44 ml) of 80-proof distilled spirits. People who are encouraged to avoid alcohol include minors, individuals with a family of alcoholism, women of childbearing age who may become medical history , pregnant and lactating women and persons taking certain medications. pregnant Food Safety. To avoid microbial foodborne illness: It is important to keep the foods we consume safe to eat. Many products contain safety instructions on the package, such as "Keep refrigerated" or "Safe Handling Instructions." Take time to read the Clean hands, food contact surfaces, and fruits and vegetables. Meat and poultry should not be washed or rinsed. Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing foods. Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms. Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly. Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or any products made from unpasteurized milk, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat and poultry, unpasteurized juices, and raw sprouts. and the safety instructions. If you are unsure about a food or the contents of a packaged item, throw it out. Eating even a small portion of a food contaminated with harmful bacteria or germs can make you sick. food label
Make sure to wash your hands properly prior to preparing and handling food. It is also important to wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running water. Pregnant women, young children, older adults, and people with a weakened immune system are at high risk for foodborne illnesses. To avoid foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria, viruses, toxins, parasites and other contaminants present in foods, it is vital to cook, reheat and store foods at safe temperatures.
High-risk food handling also increases the chance of serious and life-threatening food-borne illnesses. For example, though occurring only rarely, unsafe food handling and preparation can enable pathogens such as salmonella, Clostridium and staphylococcus to enter the blood stream. These pathogens have been linked to heart conditions such as bacterial and myocarditis . These pathogens may also increase the risk of complications in patients with existing heart problems and heart failure . valve disease
How much food can I eat?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are not designed to determine how much food you can eat. Instead, they provide general recommendations for what you should eat as well as a healthy lifestyle and suggest adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as the (DASH) or the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertention to build your diet. Food Guide Pyramid
Different people have different daily energy needs. Human energy is measured by a unit of heat called a . A faster metabolism or high levels of physical activity may require some people to have a higher calorie diet. Those with slower metabolisms or who get little physical activity may require less calories. Age, gender and health conditions are also factors affecting the number of calories that reflect an adequate diet. Most calorie provide the "percent Nutrition Facts Labels Daily Value" nutritional information based on a 2,000 and/or 2,500-calorie daily diet. To learn more, see . Calories
A consultation with your physician or nutritionist can help you design a specific eating plan, however the tools described in this article can offer some general guidelines that may be helpful in making healthy daily choices.