Dietary guidelines

By Charlyn Fargo

Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the nation’s nutrition experts, gather to review information from the past five years and put forth new recommendations for the next Dietary Guidelines.

The Guidelines offer a snapshot for the nation as to where we stand – and where we need to be. They aren’t final yet, but excerpts show that Americans are not eating enough fruit, whole grains and vegetables. And we’re eating too much added sugars, refined grains, sodium, saturated fat and calories. Obesity and its many risk factors are still a concern – 65 percent of adult females, 70 percent of adult males and nearly one in three children (2-19 years) are overweight or obese.

The new Guidelines suggest a healthy eating pattern that follows along the lines of the U.S. diet, the Mediterranean diet or even a vegetarian diet. All three diets are high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in alcohol, lower in red and processed meats; low in added sugars, refined grains, saturated fat and sodium; balanced in calories to maintain a healthy weight.

For the first time, the Guidelines look at a more favorable environmental outcome. And while that may sound lofty, it actually has a lot of groups upset. One of the areas of concern is the “dietary pattern with positive health benefits, and lean meat not included in the healthy dietary pattern.” That seems in contradiction to previous Guidelines that have supported the positive role of protein and lean meat in a healthful dietary pattern. There have been many new studies showing the benefits of protein – including lean animal protein – for weight management, satiety and to build lean muscle mass.

Lean beef is a nutrient-dense food – an average 3-ounce serving provides only 154 calories and 2 grams saturated fat. It is an excellent source of six nutrients (protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin and selenium) and a good source of four other nutrients – iron, choline, phosphorous and riboflavin. Lean beef also has a beneficial fatty acid profile – 1/3 saturated fat is stearic acid, the same type of fat as in chocolate. Studies on stearic acid have shown it does not raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. The other half of fatty acid in beef is monounsaturated – the same kind found in olive oil.

Maybe it’s because I grew up on a farm where we raised cattle, but as a dietitian, I’m a believer that lean beef has a place in our diet, and our environment.

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