The curtain is rising on the new U.S. dietary guidelines and it looks like fresh produce, fish and whole grains are going to be center stage.
If the rest of the recommendations follow such a promising preview, the new guidelines will be a step toward combating obesity and related ailments such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Data from the National Weight Control Registry, which maintains records on more than 4,000 individuals who have had success keeping off a minimum of 30 pounds for more than a year, suggests that the winning strategy for long-term weight loss is a low-fat, complex-carbohydrate diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Moreover, decades of research on the diverse benefits of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals found in such foods led to the National Cancer Institute’s approval of the dietary guidance: “Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer and other chronic diseases.”
Based on such evidence, the committee is expected to increase its recommendation of five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables to thirteen servings. This may seem daunting to Americans used to gargantuan servings of unhealthy fast food, until one realizes just how relatively modest an actual serving size turns out to be: a half cup of spinach, two apricots, a sliver of avocado, a carrot, 3/4 cup of pineapple.
Importantly, while the new guidelines tell us to increase consumption of certain foods – fish, produce and whole grains among them – they are also expected to advise cutting back on others. In particular, Americans will be urged to minimize consumption of saturated and trans fats, added sugars and salt.
Who will be the winners and losers when the anticipated guidelines get handed down? Manufacturers of refined carbohydrate products – white breads, cookies, sugary cereals – won’t be happy. Neither will low-carb product makers, given the panel’s debunking of the glycemic index as an effective weight-loss tool. But the decision should buoy produce farmers, fisheries, and those who sell fruits and vegetables.
Said David H. Murdock, chairman and owner of Dole Food Company, the largest producer and marketer of fruits and vegetables, who himself follows a fish-vegetarian diet: “I’m glad the federal government has finally caught up to what I’ve been preaching for years: Stick to a natural diet of whole foods like fruits and vegetables, and nature will reward you with a long lifetime of good health.”
Jennifer Grossman is the director of the Dole Nutrition Institute. – NU