Foods and Food Components To Reduce -The 2010 Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans

7 years ago

I've been posting summaries of the 2010 Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans that just got released last week. My last post summarized "Balancing Calories to Manage Weight." Today, I will be summarizing the second recommendation, entitled "Foods and Food Components to Reduce."

I found this chapter particularly challenging to summarize due to the amount of information covered (including lots of charts and graphs). I tried to organize the information in a more understandable format, by summarizing the recommendations, including the rationale behind "Why" the recommendation was made, and "How" each recommendation can be incorporated into your daily diet.

The general recommendations in this section are to reduce sodium, solid fat (saturated and trans fatty acids), added sugars and refined grains. The premise behind these recommendations is that by reducing these food items, not only will it be easier to control calorie intake to manage body weight, but the risk of certain chronic diseases will be reduced (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer).


1. Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon)

     and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and 

     older, and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, 

     diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg daily recommendation 

     applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the 

     majority of adults.

    Note: The estimated average intake of sodium for all Americans ages 2 years

               an older is approximately 3,400 mg per day!


    • High sodium intake is associated with high blood pressure; keeping blood

       pressure in the normal range reduces an individual's risk of cardiovascular 

       disease, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.


    • Read Nutrition Facts labels for sodium content and purchase foods that are low in sodium

    • Consume more fresh foods and fewer processed food that are high in 


    • Eat more home-prepared foods, where you have more control over 


    • Pay attention to portion size; although the sodium content of one serving 

       might not be that much, multiple servings add up, not just calorie wise,

       but sodium wise, e.g., bread by itself is not high in sodium; however, 

       consumed in large quantities, the cumulative salt content adds up.

    • Add salt just before serving; you're likely to use less when you see how 

       much you're adding.

2. Reduce consumption of solid fats (saturated fat and synthetic trans fatty 


    • Consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing 

       them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

    • Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.

    • Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.

    Note: The highest sources of saturated fat in the American diet for ages

              2 years and older are: dairy (24.3%), red meat (13.4%), pizza (5.9%),

              grain-based desserts (5.8%) {e.g., cakes, cookies, donuts}, and

              chicken/chicken mixed dishes (5.5%)


   Saturated Fats:

   • Consuming less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids and replacing

      them with monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fatty acids is associated 

      with lower blood cholesterol levels, and therefore a lower risk of

      cardiovascular disease.


    • Moderate evidence shows a relationship between higher intake of 

       cholesterol and higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

    • Consuming less than 300 mg per day of cholesterol can help attain normal 

       blood cholesterol levels; consuming less than 200 mg per day of cholesterol 

       can further help individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

    Trans Fatty Acids:

    • Increased Trans Fatty Acid consumption has been associated with increased

       risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the Guidelines, although 

       synthetic trans fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids, “they are 

       structurally different from unsaturated fatty acids that occur naturally in 

       plant foods, and have dissimilar health effects.” 


    To Reduce Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Intake:

    • When preparing foods at home, replace solid fats (e.g., butter, lard) with 

       vegetable oils that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty 

       acids (e.g.,olive oil, safflower oil).

    • Purchase fat-free or low-fat milk.

    • Trim fat from meat.

    • Use less oil when cooking (e.g., try using 1 tablespoon olive oil when

       sauteeing or stir-frying vegetables).

    • Reduce the amount and portion sizes of dairy products, meat, pizza and 

       desserts you eat, e.g., treat desserts as just that…treats, not every night, 

       but once in a while, and in smaller portions; try Meatless Mondays.

    • Buy lean cuts of meats.

    To Reduce Synthetic Trans Fatty Acid Intake:

    • Avoid products that include partially hydrogenated oils by reading food 

       ingredient labels (e.g. snack foods, prepared desserts, and some 


    • Read labels on all prepared foods, especially baked goods; if partially 

       hydrogenated oils is listed, don't buy it.

3. Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially 

    refined grain foods that contain solid fats (saturated fatty acids and trans fats),

    added sugars and sodium (e.g., store bought cookies, cakes, donuts). Also,

    reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.


    • The major sources of refined grains in the American diet for ages 2 years and

       older are: Yeast breads (25.9%), pizza (11.4%), grain-based desserts (9.9%) 

       {e.g., cakes, cookies, donuts}, tortillas, burritos, tacos (8.0%).

    • Solid fats and added sugars contribute nearly 800 calories per day, without 

       contributing importantly to overall nutrient adequacy of the diet.

    • The highest sources of added sugars in the American diet for ages 2 years and

       older are: Drinks (46.2%) {e.g., soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit 

       drinks}, and Desserts (19.4%) {grain-based desserts and dairy desserts}.


   • Although refined grains are often enriched with vitamins and minerals, 

      dietary fiber and some vitamins and minerals that are present in whole grains 

      are not routinely added back to refined grains.

   • Added sugar and solid fat supply calories, but few or no essential nutrients 

      and no dietary fiber (added sugars and solid fats contribute an average of 35%

      of the total calories in American diets).


   • Replace at least half of all grains eaten with whole grains.

   • Reduce consumption of refined grain products that are also high in solid fats

      and/or added sugars (e.g., cakes, cookies, donuts)

   • Begin by substituting white breads with breads made with white whole wheat

      flour, which is softer and whiter in color.

   • When making rice, use half white rice, half brown rice to begin with; over 

      time, switch to 100% brown rice.

   • Try whole grain pastas instead of white pasta (start with pastas that are 

      partially whole grain like Barilla, then gradually change to 100% whole grain).

   • Treat cakes, cookies and donuts as special occasion treats, not everyday 


4.If alcohol is consumed, consume in moderation.


   • Excessive drinking increases the risk of cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, 

      stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract and colon,

      injury and violence. Excessive drinking over time is associated with increased 

      body weight and can impair short-and long-term cognitive function.


   •  Limit alcohol to up to one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day 

      for men (there are exceptions, including women who are pregnant or who

      may be pregnant).

My takeaway from this section of the 2010 Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans is this:

• The best and surest way to reduce consumption of sodium, solid fat, added 

   sugars and refined grains is to cook more food at home, where you have control

   over what you put into your food. Seeing what goes into your food is the best 

   way to know what and how much you are consuming.

• However, since this may not be practical every day of the week, If you buy 

   prepared foods, carefully read food and ingredient labels before buying them

   and check for saturated fat content, trans fatty acids (“partially hydrogenated 

   oils”), sodium content, added sugars, and refined grains (“enriched wheat


• Pay attention to portion sizes; multiple portions add up.

• The bottom line is this: be a conscious, educated consumer; we are in charge of

   our own bodies; take the time to either cook more at home and visually see 

   what you’re putting into your food, or carefully read food ingredient labels of 

   any processed foods you buy; taking care of your body now will pay off in the 

   long-run. It’s painless, there are plenty of delicious foods you can eat, and 

   you’ll thank yourself for taking charge of your own health.

There’s a lot of information in this post, but I feel that much of it is important to get the point across. I hope you find it useful. Let me know what you think of these recommendations, and if you have any practical ideas for reducing sodium, solid fats, added sugars and refined grains in the daily diet.

Jeanette (for an easier to read version, please visit me at Jeanette's Healthy Living)


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