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The U.S. Government's 2015 Dietary Guidelines: What's Changed Over the Past 5 Years?

May 04, 2016 Posted in: Family Health , Article

Every five years, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services release a revised version of their Dietary Guidelines, which outline what Americans should be eating to avoid chronic illness. But what has changed over the past half-decade? Let's investigate the similarities and differences between the 2010 and 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

What's Different?

There are two major differences between the two sets of guidelines:

  • Sugar. In the 2010 guidelines, the recommendation was simply to limit sugar, but the 2015 guidelines now advise you to limit added sugar to no more than 10 percent of your total calorie intake for the day.
  • Cholesterol. In 2010, cholesterol was considered a nutrient that we should reduce in our diets, with an included recommendation to consume no more than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol. Today, new research has found that dietary cholesterol intake does not influence blood cholesterol levels, so there is no recommended restriction on cholesterol in the new guidelines.

What's the Same?

Much of the guidelines are, with healthy eating behaviors emphasized.

First, they teach you to follow healthy eating habits by focusing on variety, nutrient density, and portion sizes. Next, the guidelines discuss how balancing the calories you consume with the calories you burn over time is the key to weight maintenance. The guidelines also discuss how you can increase your nutrient intake by focusing on fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, whole grains, and healthy fats, while decreasing your intake of sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar.

The guidelines also feature the same physical activity guidelines from 2010, which illustrate how much weekly exercise people in every age group should aim for:

  • Ages 6 to 17: 60-plus minutes of activity daily, with three days each of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening exercises per week.
  • Ages 18 to 64: 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly, with strength training at least two days per week. For more extensive health benefits, 300 minutes of moderate activity or 150 minutes of vigorous activity is recommended weekly.
  • Ages 64 and over. Follow the adult guidelines to the best of your ability, and do what you can without overexerting yourself.

Any Hot Topics That Weren't Addressed?

There has been some new nutrition-related research that was not addressed in the new guidelines: the latest research drawing the correlation between processed meat consumption and cancer. The guidelines do recommend avoiding processed meats because of their high sodium and saturated fat content, but not due to their association with heightened cancer risk.

While the 2010 and 2015 Dietary Guidelines have much of the same content, they do differ in a few important ways, showing the slow integration of current nutrition research. By following these recommendations, however, you should still be on your way to a healthier self!

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