nutritional guidelines
Diet & Nutrition

The New Nutritional Guidelines

If you’re interested in eating better, losing weight or both, the new federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans can be a big help to you.

The regulations, released every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  contain the latest nutritional science. “While there is a lot of nutritional information out there, the guidelines are the foundation for many government food programs, and many men can benefit from their recommendations,” Katherine McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

In her interview with the publication, McManus singled out four areas:

Adopt a varied eating pattern. McManus says you should try a vegetarian diet, a Mediterranean diet, foods from other cultures – as long as the food is healthy, the variety will keep you on track. Additionally, varied eating patterns exposes you to an array of “micronutrients,” the Harvard Men’s Health Watch says. These are minerals including calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and selenium, and the key vitamins. Eat nutrient-dense foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, the publication says. But instead of mechanically following this traditional advice, look at the colors of fruits and vegetables. Indulge in red, green, orange and yellow.

Re-examine your fat intake. The previous guidelines, the publication says, indicated that adults should limit fat intake to no more than 30 percent of calories. But, McManus says, that has changed to focus on the type of fat you consume. McManus suggests focusing on healthier kinds of fat such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These protect against heart disease, the publication says, and may even improve cognitive function. Sources of good fats include olives; avocados, safflower, sunflower and soybean oils. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna and in walnuts.

Cut sugar. The Health Watch says this is probably the most significant message in the new guidelines.  The guidelines recommend that everyone limit their daily sugar intake to 10 percent. The publication cites sugar-sweetned drinks like sodas, flavored coffees and teas, and energy drinks as musts to avoid, along with candy, cookies and cakes.

Cut sodium, but not potassium. The publication says that men need to monitor their salt intake to avoid hypertension, but at the same time, less than 3 percent of older men get enough potassium. “Potassium is needed for the healthy function of cells, and low amounts in some people can cause muscle weakness and irregular heartbeat,” says McManus. The publication says potassium can be found in cantaloupe and honeydew melon and in broccoli, tomatoes and many greens.