Diabetes and The New U.S. Dietary Guidelines

The 2015 to 2020 dietary guidelines recently released by the U.S. government may not significantly alter your diabetes diet recommendations.

Still, several elements of the revised guidelines, particularly those involving the intake of sugar and artificial sweeteners, are pertinent to those who must daily manage their blood glucose.

Skinny On The Sweet Stuff

Earlier U.S. dietary guidelines did not suggest limiting sugar intake, but this latest revision does. It proposes that a maximum 10 percent of our daily calories come from added sugars. For an individual consuming 2,000 daily calories, this would mean no more than 50 grams (about 10 teaspoons) of added sugar* per day.

This sugar guideline is a step in the right direction for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes prevention. However, those who are already insulin resistant or have diabetes likely need to limit their sugar intake even more.

The new dietary directives also state that artificial sweeteners, though okay if used in moderation, should not be promoted as a means of weight loss. This new twist in the guidelines reflects growing research evidence that artificial sweeteners actually promote weight gain, and aggravate insulin resistance more than table sugar.

Proteins, Veggies, and Fats

Whether your health care professional suggests changes in your vegetable, protein, and fat intake because of the new guidelines will depend on your unique needs, and the professional’s opinion about the directives.

The protein recommendations in the new guidelines seem a bit vague. For instance, it’s pointed out that people - especially men - tend to consume too much protein, yet a protein limit is not suggested. Eating eight ounces of seafood each week in lieu of meat is proposed, and enjoying fatty fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel) is a great way to get more of the omega-3s we need.

The guidelines also mention that processed meats are associated with a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, yet there is no suggestion to avoid them.

Because research has failed to prove a correlation between cholesterol rich foods and heart disease, the earlier guideline’s recommended cholesterol limit is no where to be found in the latest revision. It is suggested we avoid trans fats, which are clearly bad for us, and limit our intake of saturated fat to less than 10 percent of our daily calories.

This low limit on saturated fat consumption is one of the more controversial guideline recommendations since saturated fats are vital for healthy hormone and cell function. It will be interesting to see whether the 10 percent limit proves to be too low.

There is no controversy around the guideline’s veggie recommendation, however. Enjoying a daily two and a half cups of a variety of vegetables is good for all of us. We need these greens, legumes, and tubers for their nutrients, fiber, and to nourish our beneficial digestive tract bacteria.

Common Sense

The wide range of doctor and dietitian comments on the Internet concerning these new dietary guidelines suggests your health care professionals may not agree with some of them. However, the gist of this latest revision is difficult to argue with since it calls for eating a wide array of nutrient-dense foods from each of the food groups.

Maybe the most important thing to consider is that preparing and eating meals made from primarily whole, fresh foods is one of life’s great pleasures. If we choose our ingredients with common sense and a dash of wisdom we can relax and enjoy our repasts, confident they will nourish and sustain us.

Source: Mayo Clinic; Mercola
Photo credit: US Dept of Agriculture

* Added sugar does not include the natural sugars found in many foods.

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