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Posts Tagged ‘nutrient dense’

picture of fruits, vegetables, and meat and poultry foods.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were just released! While much of the information they contain has been carried over from previous guidelines, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) continue to review research and present evidence-based recommendations for a healthy life. Below are the main themes and takeaways from the 2020 guidelines.

“Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.”  This guideline emphasizes the importance of healthy eating at every stage of life to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. For infants to 6 months of life, the guidelines recommend the exclusive consumption of human milk. If human milk is not an option, it is important to choose an iron-fortified infant formula. Regardless of human milk or formula, infants should also be given a vitamin D supplement. At 6 months, infants can begin to eat nutrient-dense foods. When introducing new foods, do so one at a time in case there is an allergic reaction. From 12 months on, the guidelines recommend eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods and establishing a healthy dietary pattern that can span one’s lifetime. This will help meet nutrient needs, maintain a healthy weight, and ultimately reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and obesity.

“Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.” The current American population is vastly diverse and culture extends to the plate. The current document welcomes this diversity and looks to customize the guidelines to fit an individual’s cultural background.

“Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages and stay within calorie limits.” Throughout the document, the phrase nutrient-dense comes up quite a few times. What is the difference between nutrient-dense and calorie-dense? Simply put, nutrient-dense food contains many nutrients with minimal added sugars, saturated fat, or sodium. Calorie-dense foods, on the other hand, tend to be high in added sugar, fat and sodium with limited vitamins and minerals. Filling your plate with nutrient-dense foods to meet your caloric needs will result in a healthier life.

“Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.” The guidelines recommend individuals age two and older limit added sugars and saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day. Sodium intake should be less than 2,300mg per day. Men should limit their alcohol intake to two beverages a day and women to one drink per day.

two hands holding a beverage in glass

Modifying one’s diet can be daunting, but there are tools to make it easier to eat better. MyPlate can help you visualize your plate, and the new MyPlate planning tool can help you customize it! Eating better for one’s health does not have to be a difficult endeavor, or one you embark upon alone.

Written by: Emily Beasecker, BGSU Graduate Student interning with Ohio State University Extension, Wood County Extension, and Susan Zies, Extension Educator , Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County, Zies.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County, Lobb.3@osu.edu

Sources:

Home | Dietary Guidelines for Americans [Internet]. Dietaryguidelines.gov. 2021 Available from: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/

MyPlate | U.S. Department of Agriculture [Internet]. Myplate.gov. 2021 Available from: https://www.myplate.gov/

American Heart Association (2018). How can I eat more nutrient-dense foods? https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/how-can-i-eat-more-nutrient-dense-foods

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As people age they typically need less food (less calories), but about the same amount of most vitamins and minerals.  This means that older adults need to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods — those high in vitamins and minerals at a lower calorie “cost”.  Nutrient-dense foods include most fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, lean meats, legumes, and whole grains.  As one eighty-five year old put it, “I need more carrots and less coconut cake.”

Increasingly, research is finding that specific foods – typically the more colorful, plant-based foods – have disease-fighting capabilities. Blue, purple, and red foods, such as berries, are rich in phytochemicals that may reduce risk for some cancers.

Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, may be beneficial in preventing or slowing the disease of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in aging adults.

For the typical caregiver, buying nutrient-dense foods means shopping with color in mind. Upon entering the grocery store, start with the produce section and select a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, especially those in season. Buying produce in season is important for taste and nutrition, and it is economical. Spend as little time as possible in the aisles with processed or canned foods. Those generally contain ingredients, like sugar, salt, and fat, which add calories with few or no micronutrients that are important for good health.

Start slowly and select one or two appealing vegetable items; then identify a variety of simple tasty ways to prepare them. The options abound. Even something less well known, such as kale (the curly-edged, dark green, leafy vegetable often used as garnish in restaurants}, has tasty possibilities. Consider making “kale chips” by washing and thoroughly drying the kale and cutting it into chip-size pieces with kitchen shears. Be sure to remove the middle rib on each leaf of kale. Place on a baking sheet. Drizzle the pieces with a little olive oil and sprinkle them with a seasoning (such as turmeric, nutmeg or a salt-substitute). Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Another approach might be to place cut-up, well washed, and dried kale leaves in a blender or food processor and turn them into flakes. Store those flakes in the freezer in a sealable bag. Regularly add a spoonful of kale flakes to soups or sprinkle on salads. Those are just a few of the type of ideas found on Oregon State University’s recipe Website http://healthyrecipes.oregonstate.edu.

The question of food as medicine?
Deliciously so.

Source:  http://www.extension.org/pages/The_Question_of_Food_as_Medicine

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