The U.S Dietary Guidelines 2015 were released last Thursday and while they will affect the plates of millions of Americans, the general public probably didn’t receive the memo. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t “hidden” somewhere only the healthy elite can find them. They are publicly available here, and they are used to decide the appropriate school lunch, breakfast, and government food assistance for millions of Americans, most of whom are Women, Children and the Elderly. However most of these individuals will not know of the intense debates that happened leading up to the publication release, of the questionable government research that supports their nutritional findings, or of the industries standing to lose the most depending on what nutritional information they decide to back.
What the public DOES know is that several changes have been made since the last publication that greatly influence how Americans define a healthy meal. For the first time ever the guidelines suggest limits on how much added sugar we should consume, urging people to get no more than 10% of our daily calories from added sugar. While 10% may still be a little high for some, its well under the national average of around 19% (Source). Our sugar habit has gotten wildly out of control.
Another change in advice is to not worry so much about the cholesterol we consume, something that for many years we have been advised to monitor in relation to heart health and disease. SOME nutritional research now states that consuming food high in cholesterol may not significantly increase the level of cholesterol in our blood that ultimately causes heart disease, which is why this nutritional advice has changed.
While the guidelines have relaxed slightly on sodium intake and saturated fats, it is reported that we continue to over consume both. This unfortunately isn’t the first point of evidence suggesting the guidelines may not adhere to what is MOST beneficial for us.
Yes, the added sugar recommendation is a huge win for nutrition advocates and scientists who have recognized our nations addiction, the causes, the culprits and the horrifying outcomes of increasing diabetes, obesity, and cancer. When we speak about added sugar in our diets it is important that we realize exactly where this is coming from. This is not specifically the sugar you may sprinkle in your morning coffee or that you use for baking, this type of refined sugar IS added but this is not where most of the danger lies. The added sugar that plagues our diet the most is found in the packaged foods, fast foods, snacks, and sodas that have become a staple of the American diet because we are told consuming these types of things in “moderation” is ok, and in some cases even healthy. We aren’t given nutritional specifics, but rather percentages of calories and broad terms that to most don’t make sense at all. It doesn’t make sense to us, and the information isn’t clear to us because its simply not supposed to be. I could go on and on with how the Sugar industry has for many years poisoned our bodies and our minds using and supporting incorrect nutritional information, but for the purpose of this post I will move on to where the 2015 U.S Dietary Guidelines fell short in the eyes of many.
Amongst many articles on the dietary changes that celebrated the ease in cholesterol and the new focus on sugar, this title grabbed my attention, Meat industry wins round in war over federal nutrition advice. Did I read that correctly?
Despite the research and statements made by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee AND the World Health Organization earlier in 2015 that heavily encouraged a major cut back in meat consumption, this information was not a topic of importance in the new guidelines as expected. Both sources (along with many other studies, organizations and committees) stressed not only the health but also environmental concerns that come from a diet heavy in meat, specifically red meat, pork and processed meats. Despite this, no where in the guidelines do they suggest that Americans should eat less meat.
Who do we blame for this? Well, there were many involved in this effort to make sure meat stays in our diet, perhaps at all costs. There is continuing evidence and research that proves our reliance on meat as a food source is causing our planet irreversible environmental damage, and yet both the Secretaries of the U.S Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health and Human services agreed not to push the meat sustainability conversation in the formation of the Dietary Guidelines. Although they do not ignore the conversation or the evidence, they decided that the topic is not appropriate for the guidelines to discuss as they should stick to what is solely nutritional information.
Pressure from the meat industry prevents the U.S Dietary Guidelines from paying close attention to our meat eating habits. Last year, after the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee admitted we should probably cut back on our meat consumption, the meat industry fired back with campaign after campaign to heavily promote their toxic product. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association spent $112,000 in the first three quarters of 2015 on lobbying against the dietary guidelines and promoting their product. The National Pork Producers Council? Over $780,000. The North American Meat Institute spent more than $200,000 with the same agenda. Lets be clear, this money wasn’t spent on research to find potential advantages of eating meat. This money was spent to get the potential health risks of eating meat out of the 2015 guidelines and to continue convincing the public that our American diet based on meat and dairy is perfectly safe.
Learning how the meat and sugar industries spend millions of dollars promoting their product and convincing the public it is healthy for their own financial gain is enough to make any health- conscious individual (or really any human being) frustrated and sad. With all the money and power these industries use to make sure their product ends up on our plates, who will be the one to stop it? Surely not our government as we have seen.
I once heard someone describe American health care as putting a band aid on a broken leg. That metaphor has stuck with me as I have watched countless friends and family struggle with disease and illness and feel hopeless in the process of trying pill after pill to remedy their pain. Our faulty health care system that attempts to fix health problems and not prevent them is a part of the same system that keeps telling us our overconsumption of meat is completely fine.
We can’t continue to blame those with unhealthy eating habits for their disease and misfortunes while allowing those industries to feed misinformation to millions of Americans.
As a consumer, you can make certain choices that divert your dollar to the pockets of those who value your health and that of your planet. You can read labels, avoid packaged and processed foods, shop organic, shop local, reduce your meat consumption, share your health recipes to your stressed friends who claim they only eat at Mcdonalds due to time constraints. You can change your lifestyle which speaking from experience can help change the lifestyles of those around you.
But what about those who do not have access to this information? What about those many Americans who trust the Government’s nutritional advice? Or worse, who live in the many food deserts across the nation and don’t have access to fresh food. Who will fight for these people? Who will save them from completely preventable diseases?
For more information on how you can help fight the Sugar Industry, click here.
If you have any resources, ideas, or information on how we can better educate each other on what is actually good for our body, please comment on this post or email us!