Have you seen the new USDA Dietary Guidelines? They don’t replace the MyPlate paradigm that replaced the food pyramid I grew up with, but instead give specific guidance on how we should fill our plates.
The HHS/USDA press release says that the Guidelines are “[b]ased on a review of current scientific evidence on nutrition,” but we all know that they were influenced by the food and agricultural industries. While I’m sure HHS and the USDA take their public health missions seriously, they are accountable to Congress, and so also are susceptible to pressure from industry.
Perhaps the biggest controversy relates to the recommendations regarding meat consumption–or lack thereof. Even though the World Health Organization declared processed meats to be carcinogenic and raised concerns about the environmental impact of meat consumption, the revised dietary guidelines surrounding meat are pretty subtle.
The description of “healthy eating patterns” includes this bullet point:
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
and this guidance regarding limiting saturated fats:
- Healthy eating patterns limit saturated and trans fats. Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil.
Did you see that coconut oil is called out in the list of foods to limit due to their high saturated fat content? The suggested oils are canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils. Some say canola and corn are listed for political reasons, but their inclusion is justified based on their lower saturated fat content.
Another interesting guideline suggests limiting consumption of added sugar to less than 10% of daily calories. Does this mean that nutrition labels soon will distinguish added sugars from those that may be naturally present (such as from fruit ingredients)?
Today’s Wednesday Word is accountable. The food industry tells us that we are accountable for our own food choices, and that they are not to blame for this country’s obesity epidemic. But I think we should hold them accountable when they interfere with dietary guidelines that might shrink our waistlines because they also might diminish their bottom lines.
Do you pay any attention to the USDA Dietary Guidelines?
If you use coconut oil, will the guidance on limiting its consumption impact your choices?