Little did you know that even though many individuals do not actually read the specific dietary guidelines the USDA releases every five years, and most recently Monday, these recommendations have a broad impact on Americans’ lives. They affect the information on nutrition labels. They determine what your children will be served in school to your children. They influence recommendations for social services such as food stamps, and help to spread the word about obesity and salt intake levels that educate the public in community centers, doctors’ offices and hospitals.
With so many Americans overweight, experts are hoping the newest version might finally help get the message across about how to eat a more healthful diet.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack states:

“The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being released at a time when the majority of adults and one in three children is overweight or obese and this is a crisis we can no longer ignore. These new and improved dietary recommendations give individuals the information to make thoughtful choices of healthier foods in the right portions and to complement those choices with physical activity. The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of development diet-related chronic disease. Improving our eating habits is not only good for every individuals and family, but also for our country.”

The new guidelines include 23 specific recommendations for the general population and six recommendations for specific groups such as pregnant women.

No one should consume more than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day. Those who are age 51 and older and those who are African American (almost half of the U.S. population) or have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams per day.

Kidneys naturally balance the amount of sodium stored in the body for optimal health. When sodium levels are low, kidneys essentially hold on to the sodium. When sodium levels are high, kidneys excrete the excess in urine.

However if for some reason the kidneys can’t eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in the bloodstream. Because sodium attracts and holds water, blood volume increases. Increased blood volume makes the heart work harder to move more blood through blood vessels, which increases pressure in the arteries. Such diseases as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can make it hard for kidneys to keep sodium levels balanced.

Just a pinch of salt here and there can quickly add up to unhealthy levels of sodium. One teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Many processed and prepared foods already contain lots of sodium, be aware that not just adding table salt to your baked potato is dangerous.

Everyone should consume less than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fats by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and intake less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.

One must eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Fish is also recommended and replace some meat and poultry with seafood.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius adds:

“Helping Americans incorporate these guidelines into their everyday lives is important to improving the overall health of the American people. The new Dietary Guidelines provide concrete action steps to help people live healthier, more physically active and longer lives.”

For the full guidelines direct from the USDA, click here.

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.