One of the unfortunate things about The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 released on Tuesday is that it doesn’t give many concrete examples of its dietary recommendations. This is actually a complaint I have of many nutrition guides. Telling readers to consume fewer than 2,300 mg of sodium a day is pointless if you don’t also explain what 2,300 mg of sodium actually looks like on a plate.
I’ve gone through a handful of items from the section of text that I quoted yesterday on the site, and put into common examples the advice. Feel welcome to look through The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 and add your translations of additional recommendations into the comment section of this post.
- The guide says to reduce sodium (salt) intake to 2,300 mg a day. This means you need to consume less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day. Not only is this salt you might add to food once it has been served, but also salt used in the cooking process of all of the foods you eat. Baked goods and commercially canned soups and vegetables use very large amounts of salt in their preparations. Chefs in restaurants also add lots of salt to their meals because it reduces bitterness and enhances flavors. Cooking all of your meals at home, using salt-free ingredients, and diligently monitoring how much salt you use is the best way to keep your salt intake to less than 1 teaspoon per day.
- The alternative 1,500 mg suggestion of sodium (salt) per day for “persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease” is about 1/2 teaspoon of salt per day. Truth be told, this number is extremely difficult to achieve unless you are vigilant at monitoring your intake.
- Less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol means you should be eating very little fats from animals. Dietary cholesterol is in red meats, lard, milk, cheese, butter, and egg yolks. It’s also present, but in lower amounts, in white meats (like pork loin and poultry). A single egg yolk contains a little more than 200 mg of cholesterol, so if you have two eggs for breakfast you’ve already exceeded the limit — before you’ve had lunch, dinner, or put some milk in your coffee. Since butter, milk, and eggs are prominent in baked goods, a slice of cake can put you over the 300 mg per day recommendation. Abstaining from egg yolks and red meats most every day, consuming only skim milk, and using canola oil instead of butter are good first steps to getting closer to the recommendation. Also, diligently read nutrition information levels to evaluate cholesterol in packaged products.
- The suggestion to “use oils to replace solid fats” is a more specific suggestion than other ones in the report, but fails to mention that not all oils are created equally. Instead of using lard, butter, margarine, or a vegetable shortening (like Crisco), try to use instead a monounsaturated oil. The two monounsaturated oils easiest to find in your grocery store are canola oil (which doesn’t impart much flavor into your food) and olive oil (which gives your food a hint of nut or olive flavor). Polyunsaturated oils (like corn, sunflower, soy, and safflower oils), are better for you than solid fats, but should be used in moderation. Finally, you should AVOID partially hydrogenated oils, like vegetable oil. The advice should have been “use monounsaturated oils to replace solid fats and partially hydrogenated oils in your diet.”