The 7 Dietary Guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were designed to complement the Food Pyramid. These guidelines provide a practical approach to avoiding nutritional deficiencies and they address other diet-related health problems through nutritional prevention. The 7 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are designed to help individuals meet nutritional requirements that promote health and reduce the risks of chronic diseases.
The first of the 7 Dietary Guidelines is to eat a variety of foods. There are no single foods that can supply all the nutrition needed to support the body and prevent disease. There are people who believe that bananas might be the most complete food. And they might. But they aren’t complete. They may be the most complete, but they don’t completely supply all that your body needs to survive in a healthy state.
The USDA Food Pyramid recommends breads, cereals, pasta, dairy, meat, fruits, and vegetables. But the Harvard School of Public Health has published Healthy Eating Guidelines that refute some of the information in the Pyramid, using the most current dietary and nutritional research that wasn’t influenced by the sugar, dairy, meat, and processed food industries. (1)
The second of the 7 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to balance the food you eat with activity, that will maintain or improve your weight. Obesity is a growing problem and is the root of many medical problems and morbidity (death). Weight loss should be accomplished slowly and consistently with a ½ pound to 1 pound per week.
The third Guideline is to choose a diet with whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. When most of the calories in your diet come from these sources you’ll have a much easier time with weight maintenance and weight loss. The average adult serving is six fruits and vegetables per day and 6 of grain products. Be wise about your servings sizes though. It may surprise you that the serving on your plate is actually 2 or 3 and not the 1 serving you imagined it to be.
The fourth of the 7 Dietary Guidelines is to choose a low-fat diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Again, low fat and low cholesterol diets are a great way to lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. The fifth of the Guidelines is to moderate your intake of sugar and sweets. Research has shown that sugar has multiple effects on your body from the standard tooth decay, to weight gain, empty calories without nutrients and a significant impact on your immune system.
The sixth of the 7 Dietary Guidelines is to choose a diet that is moderate in salt and sodium. Read your labels on all your foods. You will be surprised at the amount of salt or sodium that is used to accentuate flavor or used as part of the preservatives. Sodium has a significant impact on your blood pressure when you already have heart disease. It also places a larger workload on the kidneys to get rid of it. Limiting your foods with salt and enjoying the flavor of unsalted foods will go a long way toward improving your health, even if you don’t have heart disease.
And the seventh and final guideline is to drink alcohol in moderation or not at all. Alcohol will dehydrate your body, is full of empty calories that have no nutritional value and moderate to high levels of intake are associated with high blood pressure and stroke.
(1) Harvard School of Public health: Food Pyramids and Plates: What Should You Really eat
USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov: Dietary Guidelines
Center for Nutrition Policy and promotion: Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Dietaryguidelines.gov: Dietary Guidelines for Americans