The New (2010) Dietary Guidelines: The Good and the Bad (Part 1)
After all the buzz in the nutrition community over the new USDA dietary guidelines for Americans, I had to review the literature myself to see if there was truly something groundbreaking in the new recommendations. Unfortunately these guidelines, and the food pyramid, has not changed too significantly, as we are still being told to eat more grains (and to only make half of those grains whole), and to avoid natural, saturated fats.
(To ensure I cover enough on this topic, I have broken it up into separate posts. Stay tuned for subsequent postings.)
Below I shall first point out the goods things I saw in the new dietary guidelines that came out in late 2010. Then I shall move onto to the points that are not helping, or will not help, our health crises in America, followed by some contradictions set forth in the USDA’s new guidelines. It can be quite amazing to look at both health statistics they set forth in the literature, and to read what they recommend contrary to the data.
Reducing Refined Salt
One ‘good’ item that is emphasized in the new 2010 dietary guidelines include the reduction of refined salt. While this is considered good, in a sense, it can actually be quite harmful for many individuals who don’t replace this refined salt with a more natural, healthy sodium source.
Salt, or sodium, is actually an essential micronutrient needed for the proper functioning of muscle and nerves, and it also helps in balancing blood pressure. Too much refined salt, especially those coming from processed foods, can actually increase blood pressure and lead to disease. However, natural sea salt, the salt that our bodies can utilize nutrition from, such as himalayan sea salt, is disregarded in the notes, as all salts are once again placed together in the same category. Decreasing salt intake to an extreme can have drastic effects on our cardiovascular system.
More regulation has been placed on salt these days, which if you remember is an essential nutrient, than sugar or even trans-fat. More food manufacturer’s are lowering salt due to governmental recommendations, but no emphasis has been placed on lowering the amount of non-essential, harmful components that are drastically degrading the health of America than anything else — sugar, no matter the form, and “bad”, man made fats.
This is one reason why we cannot listen to the USDA when it comes to promoting our health through foods, and we certainly can’t listen to food manufacturers, because neither of them are making incredible changes for the better. We must take it in our own hands now, by choosing whole and unprocessed foods.
The Fat Recommendations
It’s good that the 2010 dietary guidelines are placing an emphasis on reducing the intake of trans-fat. However the goal shouldn’t be to reduce them, as you already know. Trans-fats need to be ELIMINATED. They serve no purpose for the human body. Some trans-fats are found in nature, that is true. But the majority of the trans-fat consumed in America is man made and is present in a wide arrange of processed, denatured food.
The bad thing about the fat recommendation? You probably already guessed it. The USDA dietary guidelines, as well as the food pyramid, are advocating for Americans to eat less saturated fat. They continually place the terms saturated fat and trans-fats in the same category, as both fats are usually studied simutaneously in nutritional studies, hence giving saturated fats the bad rap. However, when these natural fats are studied on their own, and away from health organizations with deep pocketed interests, the link between saturated fat and heart disease (and any disease for that matters) becomes non-existent.
Saturated fats play a vital role in the body, from:
- Providing structure to the cell membrane
- Aiding in cellular communication and signaling
- Anti-microbial activity
- Metabolism (medium-chained fatty acids)
Your body converts excess carbohydrates into saturated fats, so eating them is necessarily not required if you are eating a diet primarily made of carbohydrates. However, as we move into the section about carbohydrates (and if you are a regular reader of this blog), you’ll see why this type of diet has been the downfall of health in America and other countries.
Even though the dietary guidelines clearly give statistics that point out that saturated fat intake has decreased over the past 30 years or so (and disease like obesity and heart disease have risen sharply in this time), the USDA is still recommending that individuals lower these levels even more. When will they learn that saturated fat is NOT the main cause of the rise of preventative diseases? Especially since the human race has survived on this fat for who knows how long, and the rise of these diseases are only recent?
This is The Healthy Advocate.