The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which offer advice on healthy eating while also influencing countless federal nutrition and food programs, were released on Thursday.
The new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines come highly anticipated and are poised to be controversial. During the open-comment period, an unprecedented number of remarks were registered with the federal government, and experts in the fields of human health and nutrition are expected to have varying reactions to the new recommendations.
Overall, the 2015 Guidelines advise Americans to follow an eating pattern that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains (at least half of which should be whole), a variety of proteins (including lean meats, seafood, nuts), and oils. “Americans will be familiar with the majority of our findings,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in call with reporters. The recommendations are jointly released every five years by the HHS and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The guidelines also recommend Americans stay below a specific cap on saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. Specifically, the guidelines say Americans should consume less than 10% of their daily calories from added sugars—the cap on sugar is a first for the guidelines—as well as less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats, and less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium. The guidelines also continue to recommend low- and no-fat dairy products, which some critics contend is outdated advice.
No limit is explicitly recommended for the consumption of red meat or processed meat, despite recent reports that these foods have been strongly linked to health problems, including heart disease and cancer and despite the advice of the Guidelines Advisory Committee—a group of scientists who issue non-binding recommendations to HHS and USDA on what the recommendations should say. Senior USDA and HHS officials, when asked why red and processed meat limits were omitted from the 2015 guidelines, acknowledged that was the case but mentioned that some meats are higher in saturated fats than others, which is a nutrient they recommend limiting.
The guidelines recommend people drink alcohol moderately, which the report defines as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
The new guidelines no longer recommend a specific limit for dietary cholesterol, which is present in eggs and other animal products. “This change does not suggest that dietary cholesterol is no longer important to consider when building healthy eating patterns,” the report reads.
There’s some debate among health and nutrition experts about saturated fat, but the USDA and HHS took a strong stance against it. “The USDA and HHS decided to retain the dietary guidelines’ recommendation to limit intake of saturated fats to no more than 10% of calories per day based on evidence that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Burwell in the call with media. “The 2015-2020 guidelines does not encourage a low total fat diet, but rather a low saturated fat diet.”
Despite the fact that fruit juice is lower than whole fruit in dietary fiber and other nutrients, the guidelines say one cup of 100% fruit juice counts as 1 cup of fruit.
You can read the new recommendations in their entirety here.