Beneficial Changes in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines
Among the beneficial changes brought forth in the 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans, we have:
New sugar limit: For the first time, the guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to a maximum of 10 percent of your daily calories. Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, that would equate to about 50 grams of sugar per day, which is still too high if you’re insulin-resistant or diabetic.
I recommend limiting your total fructose intake to 25 grams per day for optimal health, and as low as 15 grams a day if you’re insulin resistant or diabetic. Artificial sweeteners should not be used for weight loss. While they say artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are probably OK in moderation, they should not be promoted for weight loss. This recommendation reflects the overwhelming amount of evidence showing that artificial sweeteners in fact tend to promote weight gain, and have been shown to worsen insulin resistance and metabolic disorders to a greater degree than refined sugar.
Moderate protein consumption. The new guidelines note that men in particular, tend to eat too much protein. The guidelines do not go so far as to suggest a limit, however, although it does specify eating 8 ounces of seafood per week which, besides protein, is a source of healthy omega-3 fat.
Nor does it strictly warn against eating processed meats, even though it mentions processed meats have been associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. For reasons detailed in my previous article, “The Very Real Risks of Consuming Too Much Protein,” I recommend limiting your protein to about one-half gram of high-quality, organic, pastured/grass-fed protein per pound of lean body mass, which for most would be 40 to 70 grams a day. Eating more high-fat/low-mercury fish in lieu of red meat is one great way to reduce your protein consumption, as fish is far lower in protein than meat. As for processed meats, they have far more risks than benefits, and are best avoided as much as possible.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, has actually classified processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen, as the evidence strongly shows it can cause colorectal cancer in humans.
Eat more veggies. The guidelines recommend eating 2.5 cups of a wide variety of vegetables. In my view, you can’t really overdo it when it comes to vegetables, as they’re very low in calories, and supply much needed fiber and prebiotics that nourish beneficial gut bacteria.
Good News: Limit on Dietary Cholesterol Has Been Removed
For the past four decades, the U.S. government has warned that eating cholesterol-rich foods, such as eggs, would raise LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream and promote heart disease. Alas, decades’ worth of research has utterly failed to demonstrate this correlation. Now, finally, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has addressed this scientific vacuum, announcing that “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” In the past, the guidelines suggested a limit of 300 milligrams (mg) per day; the equivalent of about two eggs. Now, the limit on dietary cholesterol has been removed entirely. This is good news, since dietary cholesterol is actually one of the most important molecules in your body. Cholesterol plays an important role in brain health and memory formation, and is indispensable for the building of cells and the production of stress and sex hormones, as well as vitamin D. (When sunlight strikes your bare skin, the cholesterol in your skin is converted into vitamin D.)
Eggs are a healthy source of cholesterol, provided you buy high-quality eggs, meaning organic and pasture raised. The Cornucopia Institute has created an egg scorecard, based on 28 organic criteria, to help you select eggs of the highest quality possible.
Bad News: Saturated Fat Myth Remains
Unfortunately, they still do not retract their previous misinformation and do not tell the truth about saturated fat. Insisting that it raises LDL, while ignoring that it only raises safe fluffy LDL particles, they still omit the very important fact that it actually increases HDL. This is surprising, considering all the evidence. For example, a 2014 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (which included data from 76 studies and more than a half-million people) found that those who consume higher amounts of saturated fat have no more heart disease than those who consume less. Moreover, those who ate higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including both (healthy) olive oil and (unhealthy) corn oil — both of which are recommended over saturated fats — did NOT have lower incidence of heart disease. Another meta-analysis11 published in the British Medical Journal last year also failed to find an association between high levels of saturated fat in the diet and heart disease. Nor did they find an association between saturated fat consumption and other life-threatening diseases like stroke or type 2 diabetes.
Saturated Fat Recommendations Do Far More Harm Than Good
Despite such findings, the updated dietary guidelines still recommend limiting both trans fats (which are indeed harmful) and saturated fat (which is not) to less than 10 percent of your daily calories. This is a far cry from what most people probably need for optimal health. Saturated fats not only are essential for proper cellular and hormonal function, but also provide a concentrated source of energy in your diet.
If you’re insulin-resistant, which most Americans are, then you’d likely benefit from getting as much as 50 to 80 percent of your daily calories from healthy fats. I personally consume about 75 percent of my diet as healthy fat.
For weight loss, they also recommend sticking to low- and non-fat dairy, which I believe is a serious mistake. Low-fat recommendations do more harm than good across the board, but it may be particularly counterproductive if you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, mounting evidence clearly shows that a high-fat, low-carb diet can be exceptionally effective for weight loss — provided you’re eating the right kinds of fats.
For example, research from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shows low-carb, high-fat diets promote faster weight loss than a low-fat diet. Low-carb dieters lost 10 pounds in 45 days, while the low-fat dieters needed 70 days to lose the same amount of weight.