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New Dietary Guidelines for heart health released

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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The release of the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has generated a lot of interest. The DGA are used to develop federal food, nutrition and health policies and programs as well as education materials for schools, colleges, businesses, community groups, media and the food industry.

The DGA are updated every five years under the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act. These updates are based on the most recent medical and scientific research, and are developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The DGA are developed for Americans who are 2 years old and older.

The DGA guidelines no longer strongly focus on individual nutrients to consume or avoid but recommend healthy eating patterns that meet an individual's personal and cultural food preferences. Food choices should enhance health as well as reduce the risk of chronic disease.

The three healthy eating patterns described are: the Healthy US.-style Eating Pattern; the Healthy Mediterranean-style Eating Pattern; and the Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern. For more information, go to

The committee's scientific report defines a healthy diet to be high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat and nonfat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts while lower in red and processed meats. The recommendation also includes an eating pattern that is low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages as well as refined grains. Refined grains include white flour, bread, rice, pasta, crackers and cereal.

The vegetable and fruit group has been defined as helping prevent heart disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, stroke and some cancers. The five vegetable subgroups people should consume are dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy and other. These include fresh, lower-sodium frozen, low-sodium canned, dried, and vegetable juices. Choices over a week should include many different vegetables. Vegetables should be prepared with limited additions such as salt, butter or creamy sauces. Legumes include pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, white beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lima beans (mature, dried), split peas, lentils, and edamame (green soybeans). The fruits food group includes whole fruits and 100 percent fruit juice. Whole fruits include fresh, canned, frozen, and dried forms. Choose canned fruits that are low in sugar and 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugars.

The recommendations include limiting the intake of refined grains and foods made with refined grains, which are often high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. At least one half of grains consumed should be 100 percent whole grains. When looking at the package ingredient list, a whole grain should be the first or second ingredient, after water. If a food contains multiple whole grains they should be listed at the beginning of the ingredient list. Eating a fiber-rich diet with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and lentils allows the fiber to bind to dietary cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract and prevents the cholesterol from being absorbed into the blood.

The recommendations include a variety of protein foods from both animal and plant sources. These include seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products, beans, peas and nonfat dairy. There is strong evidence from mostly prospective cohort studies that adults who include lower intakes of meat, processed meat and processed poultry are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and moderate evidence for a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Although the DGAs have dropped the guidelines on dietary cholesterol, they still suggest limiting intake of saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats should be limited to 10 percent of total calories and trans fats from processed foods avoided due to strong evidence that intake increases CVD risk as well as contributes to high blood cholesterol levels. Eggs and shellfish are high in cholesterol and low in saturated fat while other animal proteins contain both fats. The bottom line is to eat less meat. Choose lean protein from healthy sources, such as seafood, soy, seeds, beans, legumes and tofu.

DGA offered several key points. Limit sugar. Added sugar should comprise less than 10 percent of calories each day. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of various subgroups. Make half of grains eaten whole grains. Limit intake of refined grains. Limit intake of trans fats to as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats. Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and/or fortified soy beverages. Eggs can be a part of the diet. Limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg. per day for adults and children ages 14 years and older. Choose healthy beverages, including water. Limit alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages. Up to three to five 8-ounce cups of coffee per day can be consumed unless someone is planning to become or is pregnant or nursing.

Be active. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week.

Debra Dobies, MA, RD, LDN, is Beebe Healthcare's Ornish Reversal Program registered dietitian and medical nutrition therapist. For more information, go to

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Original Publication Date: June 7, 2016

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