February is National Heart Health Month. What a perfect time to celebrate with the brand new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)! The federal government updates the DGA every 5 years to help us eat healthfully based on latest research. Here are 5 highlights on how the new DGA supports heart health.
Focus on the big picture. The key theme of the DGA is to follow an overall healthy dietary pattern over time, rather than focus on individual nutrients. Precisely that is what American Heart Association emphasizes in their blog. According to DGA, research shows that a healthy diet is based on a variety of colorful vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy, seafood, lean meats, other proteins and oil.
DGA caps daily sodium at less than 2300mg, about one teaspoon of salt. Limiting salt intake helps lower blood pressure and improves heart health. Although DGA does not go as low as AHA’s limit of 1500mg, it certainly beats our current average intake of 3700 mg a day! Experiment with herbs for seasoning, such as this salt-free chili recipe. Choose “reduced-sodium” packaged foods or that have 140 mg or less per serving.
For the first time, DGA limits added sugars to less than 10% of daily calories, about 12 teaspoons of sugar at a daily 2000 kcal level. Excessive sugar intake is linked to obesity and risk of heart diseases. One soda packs 10 teaspoons of sugar. Have a sweet tooth? Choose less sugary breakfast cereals, or use fruit to sweeten plain yogurt instead of buying flavored yogurt. American Heart Association offers more tips on sugar reduction.
Making small changes can yield big healthy results. Instead of salty chips and cheesy dip, go for hummus and carrot sticks for extra fiber. Choose whole grain pasta, rice or bread at least half of the time. For those who enjoy meat, choose lean beef or other lean meats more often. Look for the word “loin”, “round” or 95% ground beef.
Finally, encourage healthy choices everywhere, based on personal taste and cultural preferences. Organize a walking club at work; pack a school lunch with lean protein. The key takeaway is this: as long as we are mindful of a balanced diet and adequate physical activity over time, heart healthy eating can be flavorful and satisfying.
Photo source: www.goredforwomen.org on limiting added sugar to promote heart health
— by Cindy Chan Phillips, MS, MBA, RD
About Cindy Chan Phillips, MS, MBA, RD
Director of Nutrition Education, New York Beef Council
Cindy Chan Phillips, RD, MS, MBA is a registered dietitian, health communicator and mother of twin sons. Currently she is the Director of Nutrition Education of the New York Beef Council. She received her Master of Science in Nutrition Science from Syracuse University, her MBA in marketing in San Diego State University and a Chef certificate from Mohawk Valley Community College Hospitality Program.
Cindy presented her original research in children nutrition at the poster session at the Food and Nutrition Convention and Expo 2012 (FNCE) in Philadelphia on October 9th, 2012. Her research was titled “NUTRIENT QUALITY OF CHILDREN’S MEALS AT FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS IN ONONDAGA COUNTY”, which also received the Master Prize at Syracuse University, the first won by the Nutrition Dept.
Cindy has experience in both clinical and community nutrition. She was the primary dietitian of the Critical Care Unit at St. Luke’s Hospital where she provided medical nutrition therapy and nutrition education to improve the clinical outcome for critically ill patients, or patients with acute or chronic disease conditions.
Follow Cindy on twitter: @nybeefnutrition, @cindyphillipsRD
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