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Reducing Fat in the American Diet

Most Americans are aware that a nutritious diet that is low in fat will lead to a longer and healthier life. To help Americans achieve this goal, the federal government develops dietary guidelines, which give advice about which foods Americans should eat to stay healthy.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture and the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services release the Dietary Guidelines every five years. Nutrition experts, who study the dietary effects on health, have made recommendations to encourage certain dietary practices.

When first introduced in 1980,

“Many groups and individuals from the health professions and the food industry questioned the scientific basis of the guidelines and even the federal government’s authority to advise its citizens on what they should eat (Dietary Guidelines 6).”

Government officials responded by saying that the rapid pace of scientific discovery makes it impossible for average Americans to stay abreast of the most recent information. Government guidelines provide at least a starting point.

The guidelines recommend that Americans eat a variety of foods from the major food groups. They also emphasize that moderate consumption is the key to good health. Some examples of recommended dietary guidelines are:

  • Aim for a healthy weight
  • Be physically active each day
  • Let the food pyramid guide your food choices
  • Choose a variety of grains, fruits and vegetables daily
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Choose a diet that is low in saturated fats and cholesterol
  • Choose beverages and food to moderate your intake of sugar and salt

A major emphasis of the guidelines is to encourage Americans to eat less fat. They recommend limits for total fat intake and saturated fat consumption. The guidelines stress the difference between saturated fats, which tend to raise blood cholesterol and unsaturated fats, which do not. “Aim for a total fat intake of no more that 30 percent of calories. If you need to reduce your fat intake to achieve this level, do so primarily by cutting back on saturated fats.” Foods high in saturated fats include high-fat dairy products such as cheese, whole milk and ice cream as well as processed meats. Everybody needs some fat in their diets, but be sure to choose unsaturated fat such as fish, nuts, olives, avocados and vegetable oils.

According to the article about human nutrition in Encarta Encyclopedia:

“Health experts consider diets with more than 30 percent of calories from fat to be unsafe, increasing the risk of heart disease. High-fat diets also contribute to obesity, which is linked to high blood pressure (see hypertension) and diabetes mellitus. A diet high in both saturated and unsaturated fats has also been associated with greater risk of developing cancers of the colon, prostate, breast, and uterus. Choosing a diet that is low in fat and cholesterol is critical to maintaining health and reducing the risk of life-threatening disease.”

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