Have Our Diets Changed Since 1970?
A healthy diet high in nutrients has been shown to prevent and treat symptoms of several serious and common diseases in the U.S. including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer. So, what are we waiting for? Do Americans follow the most recent and most scientifically researched nutrition guidelines available today? Many people are still unaware of the latest health news, that the USDA’s food pyramid has been replaced by My Plate.
The New Food
Buzzing as one of the latest current health topics, the new plate is divided into five sections which are vegetables, grains, fruit and protein, and a separate dairy section that resembles a small bowl. The USDA now recommends that people consume equal parts of grains and vegetables every day (30% each) as the basis of our diets. Next come fruit and protein (20% each). Lastly, dairy is recommended in small portions that might equate to one glass of milk or one yogurt per day. In other words, half our plates at each meal should consist of fruits and vegetables, while only a quarter should be protein. The USDA nutrition guidelines also recommend consuming mixed sources of protein including meat, fish, beans, soy and nuts. Alternative sources of protein such as nuts should replace a portion of meat rather than add to total protein intake.
Although the new My Plate is certainly not perfect and is still criticized for being influenced by the agricultural industry, the USDA has come a long way in the evolution of their dietary guidelines since the 1940s. The USDA promoted a guide called the Basic 7 Food Groups from 1943-1956 that included Butter/Margarine as a category of its own as well as Potatoes and Other Vegetables.
Have We Changed for the Better?
Despite changing recommendations and greater access to scientific research on nutrition, most Americans haven’t changed their diets much at all. For the most part, diets have taken a turn for the worse since 1975. Fruit and vegetable consumption remain basically the same while sugar and fat calories balloon up to around 500 and 600 calories per day, respectively. We’ve added an average of 600 calories total to our daily food intake since 1975, most of it being fat and sugar. The CDC’s 2013 report indicates that on average, Americans are consuming fruits and vegetables 1.5 times per day when half of every meal should contain fruits and vegetables. No wonder obesity and diabetes have skyrocketed.
Time to Take Action
The USDA’s latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans published in 2010 examines research on multiple diets including the traditional Mediterranean diet and vegetarian diets and incorporates the positive aspects of these diets into its new guidelines. Research has indicated that a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables can prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other major illnesses that are plaguing Americans. Many of us already know what we need to do to improve our health. When will we take action based on the latest health news?