When the federal report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was published in spring 2015 it faced some rush criticism by the meat industry since it gave clear insights of the diet habits of the average American stating it’s high in sodium, calories, saturated fat, refined grains, and added sugars. For the first time ever, the committee advised for a change of diet saying that a diet based on plant-based food should be preferred to animal-based foods because of its health impact and for environmental reasons. This report might be considered a milestone and is definitely a step into the right direction. It should cause a wake-up call not only among Americans but also among other nations whose diet is mainly based on meat consumption.
“Last month, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee issued its newest recommendations on what Americans should be eating. For the first time, the committee concluded that a diet higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods is both healthier and better for the environment. Their official recommendations for a “healthy dietary pattern” put vegetables, fruits, and whole grains at the very top the list and pushed red and processed meats to the very bottom.
The 571-page report provides an in-depth look at what Americans are eating, andstates that “the quality of the diets currently consumed by the U.S. population is suboptimal overall and has major adverse health consequences.”
The committee found a large gap between a healthy diet and the standard American diet: “On average, the U.S. diet is low in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, and high in sodium, calories, saturated fat, refined grains, and added sugars.”
The Committee’s Findings on the Standard American Diet:
- Roughly half of American adults have one or more chronic diseases related to poor diet and inactivity
- Preventable diseases include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers
- More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese
- Nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese
- Chronic diseases disproportionately affect low-income communities
- Focus on disease treatment rather than prevention increases and strains health care costs and reduces overall health
For the first time, the committee also included environmental sustainability in its recommendations. They mentioned that a diet lower in animal foods is not only healthier, but is also better for the environment:
“Quantitative modeling research showed how healthy dietary patterns relate to positive environmental outcomes that improve population food security. Moderate to strong evidence demonstrates that healthy dietary patterns that are higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods are associated with more favorable environmental outcomes (lower greenhouse gas emissions and more favorable land, water, and energy use) than are current U.S. dietary patterns.”
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