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What can you tell me about the new dietary guidelines?

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Nine fruits and vegetables a day? You’ve got to be kidding!

No. It’s true. The new 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans now recommend a diet with nine fruit and vegetable servings based on the standard 2,000 calorie diet. We are counseled to eat from each of five vegetable subgroups: dark green, orange, legumes, starchy and other vegetables. That means potatoes and corn shouldn’t be our only link to the vegetable world. While the health benefits of eating produce are extensive, the typical intake is only about three servings. Although it may seem intimidating to squeeze more veggies into our diets, it is not as hard as it sounds.

The new guidelines were released Jan 12, 2005.This collaborative work from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services signifies the “latest and greatest” in sound nutritional advice. Groups of nutrition and health professionals review and analyze new dietary research. The process is repeated every five years.

The 2005 guidelines comprise an 84-page document (www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines), in contrast with the former 44- page report. Much of the additional information comes from the inclusion of helpful tables (calorie needs, the food highest in potassium, salt, fiber, etc.) There is also an abbreviated two-page version with 23 key recommendations. Much of the advice is still the same — exercise more, eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and limit fat, salt and alcohol — but here are the most notable changes:

The new version includes specific measurements to clarify distorted perceptions of how much an actual serving is. While the 2000 Dietary Guidelines state, “choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day,” the new version states, “consume 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day.” We are also told to consume 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products per day, consume half our grains from whole grains and limit ourselves to 1 tsp of salt every day.

The new document repeatedly encourages us to refer to the Food Guide Pyramid or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. The diet is a set of “heart healthy” recommendations clinically proven to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. It focuses on consuming even greater amounts of plant foods (grains, fruits and vegetables) and low-fat dairy products. This plan is available at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash.

The advice on fat has changed slightly. We are still advised to cut out saturated fats and trans-fats, but to allow monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats into our diet. We are allowed 25-35 percent of our dietary calories from fat, as long as most of those come from “good fat” sources such as nuts, olive or canola oils.

New emphasis is placed on the relationship between activity and calories. As long as you expend more calories than you consume, you lose weight — pure and simple. The new guidelines include timely, specific advice on exercise to reduce the risk of chronic disease, to lose weight and to manage weight.

In the past, the only specific mineral or vitamin discussed in the guidelines was sodium (salt). Now, potassium has also emerged as a nutrient of great importance. The guidelines include information on potassium sources in fruits and vegetables.

So, how do we get all these fruits and vegetables into our diets? There are hundreds of tricks to help increase our intake. A Google search for “How to add fruits and vegetables to your diet” resulted in 795,000 hits. Here are tips: fruits and vegetables work well as snack food, fruit can be a dessert, add vegetables to pizzas or soups, blend frozen fruit for smoothies and remember that both fruits and vegetables make excellent sauces. As for cost, a USDA economic research study found that three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables cost only 64 cents a day. Numerous options using fresh and processed produce items necessary to meet the recommendations cost less than $1 a day.

Posted on 22 Mar 2005

Nedra Christensen
Utah State University Extension Dietician
Emily Cannon
Senior dietetic student

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