Today, the USDA and HSS released the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In addition to providing a personal point of reference for your own plates, the guidelines are important because they help shape federal nutrition and food programs for a variety of programs nationwide (including the National School Lunch program which feeds 30 million children every school day). The guidelines are released jointly by the two organizations every five years.
You've likely heard the majority of their recommendations because they're very similar to what we (and other nutrition-minded organizations) have been saying for quite some time: more fruits and vegetables, more grains (at least half of which should be whole), and healthier proteins (which includes lean meats, seafood, healthy fats, and plant-based protein sources). What you're most likely to hear in the news, however, is two key points that are entirely new for these guidelines.
1) Sugar. The USDA officially set a cap on added sugars--the first such cap on sugar for these guidelines. Specifically, they recommend Americans eat no more than 10% of their daily calories from added sugars, or about 200 calories or 50g for a person eating 2,000 calories each day (roughly 12.5 teaspoons). As concerns over the health impact of added sugars (not the sugars that are natural to fruits, vegetables, and dairy) grow, consumers and medical experts have been pushing for better sugar information and guidelines.
We saw these sugar recommendations coming, so with our January issue, we started listing sugar numbers with each of our new recipes. Our sugar limitations are more closely aligned with the American Heart Association. We suggest no more than 38g per day, which is about 8% of calories.
This great news piggy backs some other exciting news from last year: In 2015, the FDA announced a proposal to add a Daily Value for Added Sugars on food labels – 10% of daily calories. The proposal comes as a revision to the current label, and suggests not only including the amount of added sugars in grams, but also listing the percent Daily Value (%DV) on the label. In other words, you'll be able to put the number of grams into perspective — one can of soda is 130% of my daily allowance? No thanks!
Related: Low-Sugar Recipes
2) Cholesterol. The new guidelines no longer recommend a specific limit for dietary cholesterol, which is found naturally in eggs and animal products. (They do, however, recommend eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible.) Research now shows that dietary cholesterol doesn't contribute to blood cholesterol (the stuff that clogs arteries) as much as once thought. And the egg is a nutritional superstar: At only 70 calories, just one serves up 6 grams of quality protein and 13 essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For healthy people, an egg a day is (now officially) A-OK!
See More: Our Top-Rated Egg Recipes
The cholesterol that does matter is the kind found in other types of animal products, such as meat and butter. Coincidentally, those foods also often contain high amounts of saturated fat, which has been shown to increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. So instead of keeping the guidelines' cholesterol limit, which has given eggs their bad rap for far too long, the guidelines instead maintain a saturated fat limit recommendation. That limit suggests you eat no more than 10% of calories per day from saturated fat.
The easiest way to cut saturated fat is to reduce your intake of animal fats, swap to lean proteins sources, and eat more plants. About 85% of Americans' protein comes from animal sources. Meanwhile, only 14% of Americans are eating enough plants, which not only have vitamins and satiating fiber but also lots of protein—and far less saturated fat than most animal proteins.
See More: More Plants, Less Meat Recipe Makeovers
Bottom line: The news was mostly expected. But the two advances, sugar limits and the lift on cholesterol ban, is great news for healthy-eating advocates.
You can read the entire guidelines here.