Is coffee a health food? Are cholesterol-packed eggs OK? Could eating less red meat help the environment and your health?
A top science panel’s recent suggestions for America’s ideal diet are sparking food fights and some wacky headlines (like “Coffee Addiction Not Bad for You”).
The advisory panel’s recommendations shape the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the nation’s official healthy-diet blueprint that informs everything from school lunch menus to the dietary advice your doctor gives you.
Food-industry critics have already slammed the panel’s ideas, with the North American Meat Institute denouncing them as “flawed” and “nonsensical,” and the American Beverage Association saying the group “went beyond its ... authority” by suggesting a tax on sweetened drinks and foods.
We think there’s plenty to cheer about in the panel’s suggestions, though we disagree on a few points. Here’s our take on some recommendations in this important report.
No. 1: Our food choices affect the health of the planet.
The advisory committee’s guidelines suggest that an estimation of a food’s quality include its sustainability, the idea that what we eat affects the environment. The panel recommends eating less red meat, not just because doing so lowers your risk for heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and memory dysfunction, but also because producing most beef and other meats is not environmentally friendly.
We don’t think the recommendations go far enough. If you eat red meat, make sure it’s raised without added hormones or antibiotics, and keep it to under 4 ounces of beef or 6 ounces of pork per week.
No. 2: Cut back on sugar.
North Americans consume, on average, 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugars daily mostly from soda and other sweet drinks. The panel recommends cutting way back on sugar-sweetened drinks and consuming only 10 teaspoons of added sugar per day; we think that’s nine teaspoons too many.
The advisory committee also favors a new food-labeling rule that would call for clearly listing added sugars, something food industry groups have fought against.
They don’t want you to know about added sugars and syrups that pack on pounds, boost your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, cancer, memory loss and more, but we do.
No. 3. Bring on the fruit, grains and veggies!
The panel noted that most Americans are not getting enough of eight important nutrients: Vitamins A, C, D and E, plus folate, calcium, magnesium and fiber.
Why? We don’t eat enough fruit, veggies or 100 percent whole grains. Try reserving half of your plate for produce, and one-quarter for a whole grain.
No. 4. Worry less about eggs.
The panel says you don’t have to count milligrams of cholesterol in food or worry about high-cholesterol foods like eggs.
We disagree. It’s true that for most people cholesterol from food doesn’t really affect blood cholesterol levels. But egg yolks contain lecithin, which boosts blood levels of compounds, such as trimethylamine; those compounds are linked to plaque buildup in arteries and lead to kidney failure more predictably than diabetes.
Egg whites are OK; limit intake to one egg yolk weekly.
No. 5. Don’t feel guilty about coffee.
We agree, although for some of you, caffeine causes sleep problems, which can raise your risk for diabetes, heart disease and weight gain. However, around 88 percent of North Americans are fast metabolizers of caffeine, which means coffee doesn’t cause migraine, an abnormal heartbeat, anxiety or gastric upset after a cup.
Then, five cups a day won’t hurt you and may lower your risk for Type 2 diabetes, depression, heart disease, Parkinson’s and memory problems.
No. 6. Cut back on salt.
The panel says most Americans should get no more than 2,500 milligrams of sodium daily. Most of us consume closer to 3,500mg, often from processed food, fast food and restaurant meals.
They recommend that you cut back by eating more fresh food. We agree, although most of you won’t be hurt by eating more than 2,500 mg.
Those are delicious options everyone agrees on!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.