Preview: Is sugar the new cholesterol?

By Lauren Mazzo
January 07, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released the highly anticipated 2015-2020 dietary guidelines, which the group updates every five years. For the most part, the USDA guidelines stick to the script of healthy eating. You know the drill: more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, healthy fats, and lean protein. They maintained their recommendation of consuming less than 2,300mg of sodium per day and limiting saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your daily calories, and their recommendations for protein stayed consistent with 2010's guidelines (46g a day for an adult female and 56g a day for an adult male). But not everything's the same. Here are some notable changes:

Cut Back On Sugar

One of the biggest changes in the 2015 guidelines focused on sugar intake. The USDA recommends consuming less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars. That means sugary cereals and sweets, not what's naturally found in fruit and dairy. In the past, the USDA advocated limiting added sugar in American diets, but has never suggested a specific amount. Over the last couple years, more and more research has linked sugar to high blood pressure and cholesterol, and these new guidelines say you should limit your intake of added sugars in order to meet food-group and nutrient needs within your daily calorie limit. So basically, sugary foods are high in calories and potential health consequences-and low in nutrition. (We have everything you need to know about sugar.)

Give Cholesterol a Break

The previous guidelines recommended limiting cholesterol intake to 300mg per day, while the 2015 version removes that set limit and simply advocates eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible. Since most high-cholesterol foods (such as fatty meats and high-fat dairy products) also happen to be high in saturated fat, limiting saturated fats should keep your cholesterol under control too. Plus, it's a misconception that dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol levels-study after study has disproved this, as Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The Great Cholesterol Myth told us in High Cholesterol Foods Are Off The Dietery Hit List . There's actually stronger evidence tying saturated and trans fat to high blood cholesterol levels, says Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University and spokesperson for the American Heart Association.

Make Small Changes

These new guidelines take the small-changes approach when aiming to adopt a healthy diet in hopes that these small steps create a more sustainable lifestyle of healthy eating. No crash diets? We're totally on board with that.

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