In February of 2015, the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines were released. From a Medscape review article, “the recommendations include advice staples such as focusing on the consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low or nonfat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts and limiting the consumption of red and processed meat, added sugars, and refined grains.”
Not surprisingly, dairy is included as one of the important food groups to include in a well-balanced diet. Keep in mind that the dairy industry has a lot of influence in our government, and for years the beef industry has had a pretty steady hold too, which is probably why they say “limit” the consumption of red/processed meat. Also, note that one of the main reasons why we have so much high fructose corn syrup in our diet is due to government subsidy of corn (see the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan).
One of the “twists” mentioned in the article is that they are no longer setting a limit on dietary cholesterol. Here’s the thing, we’ve known for a while that eating cholesterol (e.g. eggs) does not increase your cholesterol levels, and I was surprised that this myth is so pervasive.
And what about saturated fats? Well, it’s a controversial subject. It is important to consider that foods like whole fat dairy, red meat, coconut oil all have “saturated” fats, but the types of saturated fats and the profiles differ which may account for why not all saturated fats have an adverse effect on cholesterol levels. However, one thing we can all agree on is that trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) should be avoided as they can have an adverse effect on cholesterol levels (increase LDL and lower HDL).
When it comes to nutrition and nutritional counseling, for that matter, it is important to avoid the sort of “all-or-none” approach that I see time and time again. For example, although low carb diets will help you lose weight, this diet is very hard to maintain in the long run and depending on where you are getting your major sources of fat/protein, you may end up substituting one risk factor (e.g. obesity) for another (e.g. hyperlipidemia).
And Medscape agrees with me on this 😉 “Strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns”…”[r]ather, individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy dietary patterns, and these strategies should be tailored to meet the individual’s health needs, dietary preferences, and cultural traditions.”
I think what these generalizations about cholesterol and saturated fats has taught me is to remember that foods are not eaten in isolation and to be wary of diets that propose elimination of entire food groups. Although they may work for some individuals, it is also important to consider what is the evidence behind it and is that evidence valid?