Surprises in Proposed New Dietary Guidelines

By Kathleen Doheny
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

Feb. 26, 2015 -- Eggs are no longer bad guys. Coffee with those eggs? Go ahead, have a cup, maybe even three.

Those are among the latest recommendations an expert advisory panel has made for the upcoming "2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans" -- and the group's report is turning some conventional thinking on its head.

The panel's advice is under review by the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA, which will issue the guidelines jointly later this year. The guidelines are published every 5 years, and they reflect the latest science-based evidence about what we eat. They can help people make healthy food choices through the USDA's MyPlate program.

The advisory committee's new report puts an emphasis on eating a plant-based diet, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. But some so-called "bad" foods are back on the menu, too.

"The 2015 report reinforced much of what we saw in 2010," such as the need for people to eat more plant-based meals, says Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. But there are notable additions, such as the goal of eating without depleting environmental resources. "The mention of sustainability is new. No previous guidelines addressed it," she says.

Other unexpected recommendations include:

Caffeine is OK (within reason). For healthy adults, it's all right to have up to 400 milligrams a day, or about three to five cups of coffee. This doesn't apply to children and teens.

Coffee lovers still need to be aware of what they add to their java, says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a registered dietician in the San Francisco Bay area. Coffee with sugar and creamer added, or designer coffee drinks, can be loaded with calories and fat, she says.

Cholesterol is no longer a villain. The 2010 guidelines suggested we should limit cholesterol from foods to no more than 300 milligrams daily. (A large egg has about 186 mg of cholesterol.) Experts now say cholesterol is ''not a nutrient of concern," because cholesterol from foods doesn't cause higher blood cholesterol levels.

The guidelines are meant only for healthy people over age 2. Those with chronic conditions such as high cholesterol should talk with their doctors about the best diet for them, experts say.

Also, make smart food choices before you chow down. "Go ahead and eat your eggs. But that doesn't mean you should have eggs fried in butter with toast and more butter and no fresh fruit," Angelone says. "Have a scrambled egg, whole grain toast and fruit salad on the side."

What you eat can help the planet.The new recommendations suggest plant-based diets are also good for the environment, and for using natural resources without depleting them, known as sustainability. Plant-based eating is healthy and has less impact on the environment, including land and water use.

Farm-raised seafood is OK. Wild-caught seafood has long been viewed as healthier than farm-raised, but the proposed guidelines suggest that thinking is misguided. For many common fish, including bass, cod, salmon, and trout, farm-raised has as much or more healthy omega-3 fatty acids as fish caught in the wild. (Farm-raised catfish and crayfish [also known as crawfish], though, have less than half of these healthy omega-3s.)

Still, the risk of mercury and other pollutants doesn't outweigh the health benefits of eating seafood, such as lowering heart attack risk. Experts recommend eating a variety of seafood, both wild-caught and farmed.

Other Recommendations

The new report's proposed guidelines fine-tune or keep some advice from previous years. Here's some of what the 14-member expert panel said:

Put down the salt shaker. Adults who need to lower their blood pressure should eat less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day. Under 1,500 mg is even better to lower blood pressure. A teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg.

Eat less saturated fat. Ideally, we should eat less than 10% of calories from saturated fat. That's about 20 grams of saturated fat on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. A 1-ounce slice of provolone cheese has nearly 5 grams of saturated fat.

Too sweet. The link between excess sugar and weight gain is strong. Keep added sugars to less than 10% of total calories, or 200 calories from sugar on a 2,000-calorie a day diet. One teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories,and 13 teaspoons have 208 calories.

Don't turn to artificial sweeteners. While they may help people lose weight in the short term, there is little evidence on the long-term effects on weight loss and weight maintenance. Don't rely on artificial sweeteners solely to replace added sugars in food and beverages. Drink more water instead.

Public comments on the panel's report are being accepted online and at a public meeting next month. Approved guidelines will be released later this year after comments are reviewed.

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services press release, Feb. 19, 2015. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, Feb. 2015. Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition, Washington University in St. Louis. Sonya Angelone, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and registered dietitian, San Francisco Bay area.

©2015 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Weight Loss/Healthy Living Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors