6 Surprising New Diet Rules to Start Following STAT

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Whether you're trying to lose weight, stave off disease, save the planet, or all of the above, there are at least a gazillion different, contradictory diet tips you're supposed to follow. But every five years, a group called the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee gets together and tries to sum up what all that latest food research says in order to make sweeping recommendations that later become dietary guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Agriculture Department.

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They did just that this week, issuing a 571-page report yesterday, which included the 6 following surprising new food rules we're probably all going to have to start following sooner rather than later!

1. Sugar is the real bad guy. In general, we're eating too much sugar, salt, and saturated fat (which, by the way, isn't as evil as we used to think, but more on that in a bit). And for the first time ever, the panel recommended that Americans limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories (which comes out to about 12 teaspoons a day for many adults), because it boosts risk of obesity and chronic disease.

For comparison sake, consider that we're currently consuming up to 30 teaspoons of added sugar a day (half of which come from soda, juices, and other sugary drinks). Insane!

2. Consider your diet's effect on Mother Nature. Whoa, what? Yes, for the first time, the panel recommended that we treat the planet with more care by eating more foods derived from plants and fewer foods that come from animals. Red meat is especially harmful in great part because of the amount of land and feed used for its production. This is sure to be controversial advice, but many would argue it's certainly overdue.

3. Forget about "low-fat." Since 1980, guidelines have suggested that people follow a low-fat diet, but that lead to an era of processed foods that replaced fat with ... you guessed it, SUGAR. And research shows replacing fat with refined carbohydrates like bread, rice and sugar can actually worsen cardiovascular health. So, the panel has stopped suggesting we all limit our total fat intake to 35 percent of daily calories.

4. Focus on the kind of fat. According to the panel, unsaturated from fish, nuts, and olive and vegetable oils beats saturated fat, which occurs primarily in animal foods. But this rule flies in the face of progressive, extremely recent research that found there's NO convincing evidence that saturated fat contributes to obesity and disease. So maybe everything in moderation?

5. Stop nitpicking, and think big picture. We tend to demonize certain individual nutrients, and obviously, some people have allergies and sensitivities, and a nutrient like sugar isn't providing any of us with solid nutrition. But members of the panel said they want us to start thinking more along the lines of a healthier "dietary pattern." For instance, we need to be eating more fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, and fish, so the panel likes a vegetarian diet or the Mediterranean-style diets, which has been associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke.

More from The Stir: Drinking Whole Milk May Actually Make You & Your Kids Thinner!

6. Cholesterol in food is a-okay. For the longest time, we've been told to restrict our intake of dietary cholesterol from foods like eggs and shrimp. But decades of research show dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on the blood cholesterol levels of most people. So finally, the recommendations are up-to-date on that.

Because this panel has struck out over the years, and because we're more fascinated with fad diets anyway, the truth is that most of us probably won't pay much mind to these recommendations, even once they become official guidelines. But they'll still be reflected in public school lunches and national food assistance programs. So for that reason, and the fact that they're ultimately shaping our country's health and well-being, maybe these new food rules are worth fighting for -- or against.

Which food rule are you most surprised by? Do you agree with these new recommendations?

 

Image via iStock.com/bowdenimages

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