The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have continued to jointly release a set of dietary guidelines since 1980. These guidelines are released every five years depending upon the following scientific evidence of health-promoting diets in three types of general U.S. population, such as.
- Who is healthy?
- Who are at risk for diet-related diseases (cancer, cardiac disease, or obesity)?
- Who is living with such diseases?
The 2020-2025 dietary guidelines were released on December 28, 2020, with some vital changes or updates, as they addressed some new aspects of nutrition. In this article, you will find out which points have changed, have been updated, or remain unchanged in the latest dietary recommendations. You may create the best healthy diet based upon these suggestions…
The Biggest Changes to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines
The latest dietary guidelines provide guidance for all stages of life, starting from the infancy through late adulthood. For the first time, the dietary guidelines also include guidance for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and you will learn about the following facts.
- Guidelines and specific requirements of infants and toddlers (up to 24 months of age)
- Recommended length of time (at least 6 months) for breastfeeding
- Recommendations regarding when to introduce the solids to infants and which solids are suitable
- Recommendations regarding the risk of introducing the foods containing peanuts, as this type of food may cause allergic reactions in kids between 4 to 6 months of age.
- Recommendations regarding what type of food or nutrients are safe and sufficient for pregnant and lactating women, as the food items have to meet the nutrient needs of both baby and mother
However, the criteria of healthy eating has mostly remained unchanged across different editions of dietary guidelines, as the base of healthy eating still remains on two key principles.
- Consumption of nutrient-rich food
- Limited consumption of some food items linked to poor health conditions and diseases
Say No to Low-Carbohydrate Diet or Limited Consumption of Carbohydrates
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA, one in 10 adults eats sufficient fruits and vegetables. JAMA conducted a research-based study in 2012 which showed the following facts.
- 52,547 deaths resulted from stroke, cardiac disease or type-2 diabetes due to not consuming enough fruits
- 53,410 deaths resulted from not consuming enough vegetables
- 11,639 deaths resulted from type-2 diabetes due to not consuming sufficient whole grains
A low-carbohydrate diet is high in fat and animal protein and causes the following health problems.
- Increasing the risk of type-2 diabetes and causing symptoms similar to diabetes
- Increasing body weight alongside causing cardiac disease
- Atrial fibrillation that is responsible for cardiac failure and stroke (cerebrovascular accident)
- Early death resulting from various health problem
It was found on a research-based study that low-carb diet increases the risk of death due to –
- Coronary heart disease by 51%
- Cerebrovascular disease by 50%
- Cancer by 35%
You can get healthy carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, grains, or legumes. In a healthy diet, fiber-rich carbohydrates provide most of the calories and it is the main fuel for the brain and muscles.
Consume Water Instead of Milk
In American diet, milk is the primary source of saturated fat. There is scientific evidence that consumption of milk or other dairy products –
- Increase the risk of breast/ovarian/prostate cancer and asthma
- Result in cognitive decline or early death
- Offer little protection to bone health
- Cause diarrhea/bloating/gas in people with lactose intolerance (30-50 million adult Americans are lactose intolerant according to The National Institutes of Health)
You may receive plenty of calcium from leafy greens, beans, vegetables, bread, tofu, or cereals. You will receive magnesium through legumes or leafy vegetables and will get potassium through fruits, vegetables, or beans. Sunlight is the natural source of vitamin D and there are many food products fortified with vitamin D in the market. Hence, it is possible to maintain an adequate level of calcium and vitamin D without consuming milk.
Warning against Consumption of Red or Processed Meat
In 2015, 22 researchers from 10 different countries evaluated over 800 epidemiological studies and WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the regular consumption of processed meat as ‘carcinogenic to humans’ (with evidence for colorectal cancer) based upon the data.
Based upon a meta-analysis, the researchers pointed out that the regular consumption of processed meat (around 50 grams) causes the following health condition.
- Increased risk of colorectal cancer by 18%
- Increased the risk of breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and mortality resulting from cancer
- Increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease
However, a recent study found out that the amount of processed meat consumption by US adults has remained unchanged over the last 18 years despite the growing public-health concerns about its consumption.
Promoting Plant-Based Eating Patterns
A plant-based diet is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The latest dietary guidelines promote plant-based eating patterns due to this reason. You can receive all the essential nutrients through a plant-based diet. It is devoid of saturated fat and you may bid adieu to unwanted calories. However, it is essential to include the B-12 fortified food when you are on this diet regime which lowers the risk of the following diseases.
- Heart Disease
It can prevent and reverse the cardiac diseases by improving the level of total cholesterol and by lowering the blood-pressure level.
It can prevent, reverse and manage type-2 diabetes.
- Weight Loss
It enables a person to maintain healthy weight.
It lowers the risk of certain types of cancer by avoiding animal products and fatty foods
The risk of asthma lowers if you have more fruits/vegetables/grains/legumes and limit the consumption of dairy products and saturated fat.
Get Nutrition through Every Bite
The new dietary guidelines focus on the inclusion of nutrient-rich food products instead of spreading the message of reducing the consumption of food that is rich in saturated fat and carbohydrate. This step is supposed to increase the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) which measures the alignment of a diet plan with the dietary guidelines or how closely someone follows the dietary guidelines when creating a diet plan. The HEI is extremely low in US citizens with an average score of 59/100 according to a research-based study.
The latest guidelines encourage people to make every bite count. According to this guideline.
- 85% of the calories have to come from nutrient-rich food.
- Rest of the calories may be consumed through saturated fat, sugar, and other sources.
Choose Your Own Individual Eating Pattern
The latest guidelines do not label one food as ‘good’ and another food as ‘bad. It does not focus on a particular meal or a particular time of the day as the right time for having a meal. It encourages a person to combine beverages and food on an ongoing basis to have the best impact on health.
The latest dietary guidelines consider personal choices, cultural background, and the budget. These guidelines do not recommend specific food groups to avoid being prescriptive and let people select the foods, beverages, or snacks based upon personal preferences or requirements.
The latest dietary guidelines focus on some new topics and new issues. It also addresses the reason behind the poor Healthy Eating Index. It encourages people to develop the habit of eating healthy instead of giving up the habit of eating carbohydrate-rich or fatty food in order to spread a positive message.