New Dietary Guidelines May Mean New Nutritional Advice from Your Doctor

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
February 13, 2021
2020 Dietary Guidelines

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture join forces to release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Accordingly, the 2020 to 2025 guidelines were recently released. Food manufacturers, health professionals and policymakers rely on these science-based guidelines for nutritional direction. 

“Dietary guidelines serve many purposes, one of which is helping consumers meet their nutritional needs and develop healthful eating patterns,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Unfortunately, many Americans don’t follow the guidelines.”

As the American diet evolves, so does the focus of the guidelines. For instance, the earliest guidelines educated Americans on food groups, safety and storage. But over time, guidelines began emphasizing the connection between nutrition, health promotion and disease prevention, as studies suggest that eating healthy on a regular basis (as opposed to intermittently) has the biggest effect on health. 

“This is the most advanced edition of guidelines and the first to offer dietary recommendations based on stages of life and has specific information for pregnant and lactating women,” Kaminetsky says. 

The basic principles aren’t new. They include getting most nutrients from food and beverages (instead of supplements), choosing a variety of foods from each food group, watching your portion sizes and focusing on plant-based foods.  

Here’s a breakdown of the latest recommendations for adults.

  • Limit added sugars to less than 10 percent of daily calories.
  • Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of daily calories. 
  • Limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages to 2 drinks or less a day for men and 1 drink or less a day for women.

If you’re familiar with the 2015 guidelines, you’ll notice the sugar and alcohol recommendations didn’t change, despite the number of studies published over the last five years that demonized sugar and alcohol. Experts believe this decision was made because the recommendations are already so low that abstinence would be the next step.

“When it comes to nutrition, sometimes moderation works better than abstinence,” says Kaminetsky. “Severely restricting your favorite foods and beverages can backfire.”

The 2020 guidelines have a couple of red flags. For instance, there is a warning to curb red meat and processed meats like bacon, hot dogs and cold cuts. Excessive consumption of red meat has been linked to a higher risk for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases for years. And studies have found ties between meat and colorectal, breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers

It also was suggested to limit dairy intake. Dairy products, often high in saturated fat, also have a connection to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, as well as asthma; breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers and cognitive decline. Some experts argue that dairy products have limited bone health benefits. Of course, talk to your doctor before changing your diet. If you’re interested in adding dairy-free foods that help build bones, American Bone Health recommends sardines or canned salmon with bones, tofu, dark green vegetables (collards, kale, broccoli, bok choy, okra), seeds (poppy, sesame, chia) and almonds for calcium; fatty fish (swordfish, salmon, sardines mackerel) and egg yolks for vitamin D; green vegetables (collards, kale, bok choy, okra), seeds (poppy, sesame, chia), nuts, legumes, whole grains, avocado for magnesium.

“The best suggestion I have is to talk to your doctor about your diet,” says Kaminetsky. “They can make nutrition recommendations based on your lifestyle, conditions you may be managing and medications you may be taking.”

If you don’t have a physician, consider partnering with MDVIP. MDVIP-affiliated physicians have the time, resources and tools to help you develop a personalized wellness program that could focus on nutrition. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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