Every five years the US Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines have tremendous implications for the foods served in our schools, military, nutrition labeling and restaurant menus. As of this year, the guidelines have removed the restriction on dietary cholesterol.
In previous versions of the guidelines, it was recommended that Americans limit dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg per day. This limitation would be equivalent to approximately two whole eggs, and adds up quickly when eating shellfish and red meat. For years we have stayed away from healthful foods such as eggs and shellfish, due to concerns regarding increasing cholesterol.
The new guidelines indicate that “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”
Extensive research supports that there is no link between dietary cholesterol and the development of high LDL cholesterol. So what does that mean for the average American?
The American Heart Association strongly encourages Americans over the age of two to obtain 25-35% of their calories from fat, with the majority of that being from “healthy” unsaturated fats. These types of fats include:
- Wild caught salmon
- Nut butters
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Olive oil
Additionally, it is wise to avoid trans fats like the plague! Trans fats have been linked to a variety of negative health conditions and have also been shown to increase “bad” (LDL) cholesterol while lowering “good” (HDL) cholesterol. While you may think you are making good choices when reading nutrition labels, it is important to realize that if a food contains less than .5 grams of trans fat, it will be labeled as having “0 grams trans fat”. If you happen to eat a few of these foods every day, it is very easy to go over the recommended limit of just 2 grams of trans fat per day without even knowing it! To help you avoid these dietary dangers, always avoid foods that list “partially hydrogenated oil” on the label – that is just a fancy word for trans fat. In addition, here is a list of the worst offenders:
- Anything fried (yes, anything)
- Pies and pie crust
- Pre-packaged frosting
- Pancake and waffle mix
- Non-dairy creamer
- Microwave popcorn
- Packaged cookies
- Restaurant milkshakes or creamy beverages
- Frozen dinners
This is a really long list, and you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed! But don’t despair – there are plenty of foods out there that are still safe. In general, just do your best to avoid pre-packaged, convenience items. Remember, if it is made of ingredients that can sit on a shelf for months or years, it probably isn’t the best choice for your body long-term.
If you would like more guidance regarding the best choices for your specific health needs, feel free to contact us at Vita. You can expect a customized nutrition plan that works for your lifestyle and needs!
Written by Colleen Baughn, OTR, CES