2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Published

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The USDA just published the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. As it’s 2020 of course there is controversy. The clash concerns sugar and alcohol. In these updated guidelines, the federal government rejected their own scientific advisory committee’s recommendation to lower sugar and alcohol targets. So once again, politics trumped science. Sigh.

Disappointment aside, the guidelines are helpful in other ways.

For those of us looking to lower cholesterol with a heart-healthy diet, these guidelines are useful. First of all, they conclude that health can improve with diet and exercise: the very core of the first step in managing heart health. The guidelines state (emphasis is mine):

“Consistent evidence demonstrates that a healthy dietary pattern is associated with beneficial outcomes for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, bone health, and certain types of cancer (breast and colorectal).”

As to what constitutes a healthy (and unhealthy) diet:

“Common characteristics of dietary patterns associated with positive health outcomes include relatively higher intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, lean meats and poultry, seafood, nuts, and unsaturated vegetable oils, and relatively lower consumption of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains.

In addition, dietary patterns characterized by higher intake of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains are, in and of themselves, associated with detrimental health outcomes.”

So in short:

  • Eat primarily vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
  • If you eat dairy, it should be low-fat.
  • Protein should be lean—poultry and fish, not red meat or processed (deli) meat.
  • Foods high in sugar, highly processed foods, and trans-fats should be avoided.
  • Alcohol, if consumed, should be no more than 1 drink/day (the guidelines allow 2 per day for men, but the science indicated none or 1 is healthier).
  • Dietary fiber is lacking for most Americans. And fiber is a key part of a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering approach to eating.

The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Resources page has a number of useful infographics; here are two explaining the types of foods in each key category (Note: beef is included due to industry influence; a heart-healthy diet would not include much if any red meat):

DGA_2020-2025_CustomizingTheDietaryGuidelines

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The USDA also offers a meal planning tool called My Plate Plan. This tool will “customize” both what and how much to eat based on your age, height, weight, level of daily physical activity, and gender (note: the tool includes only male and female). Answer these five questions in the “Get Your MyPlate Plan here widget below, and it will open a page containing a ‘custom’ plan with number of calories and types of food to target. Which is a great starting point.

I’m sure we’re all looking forward to kicking 2020 aside and moving to a healthier, better year in 2021. Adjusting your approach to food along these guidelines is one key move you can make in a heart-healthy direction.

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