Dietary guidelines promote whole grains consumption
Whole grain foods, fruits, vegetables and regular exercise are still the primary ways for Americans to maintain healthy weight, according to the federal government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released Jan. 31 by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
The Guidelines are released every five years and are intended as a roadmap to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity. The 2010 guidelines focus on balancing calories with physical activity, and they encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and seafood. Americans are also encouraged to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains.
Cindy Falk, nutrition educator at the Kansas Wheat Commission, says the Guidelines are common sense suggestions that can make Americans healthier.
"The Guidelines encourage more exercise and that we enjoy our food, but eat less," Falk says. "The emphasis is on reducing sodium and added sugar consumption and no one can disagree with that."
According to the Wheat Foods Council, grain foods are an important component of a healthy lifestyle and packed with complex carbohydrates, which provide essential fuel for the body. Americans should consume at least three one-ounce servings of whole grains each day. Research shows that whole grain foods can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Falk, past-president of the Wheat Foods Council, says consumers should pay close attention to food nutrition labels. "The good news is that consumers have numerous healthy food choices at the supermarket," Falk says.
Whole grain bread products are a great way to help meet the dietary guideline recommendations. "There are many whole grain, multi-grain and low calorie options for consumers. One advantage to cooking at home is the ability for bakers to carefully control the amount of sodium added to the recipe, and also the ability to incorporate whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds to have a healthful product," Falk says.
While Americans are encouraged to eat more whole grains, enriched grains - like those found in white bread, tortillas and pasta - also offer unique benefits. They are a key source of essential nutrients such as B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, plus folic acid and iron.
Other recommendations include switching to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, comparing sodium content in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals, and selecting meals with lower sodium numbers. Also, drink water instead of soft drinks or other sugary drinks.
The Dietary Guidelines are based on the most sound scientific information, providing advice for people two years and older about how proper dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases. In coming months, USDA and the HHS will release more consumer-friendly advice and tools, including a next generation Food Pyramid. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are available at www.dietaryguidelines.gov.