The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has recently issued their recommendations to the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services. This recommendation states that for optimal health, the average American should consume a diet: higher in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds; lower in red and processed meats, and; low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, and refined grains.
In support of this, Follow Your Heart has partnered with 21 other plant-based food companies, including Tofurky, Daiya, Uptons Naturals, Field Roast and more to request this recommendation be clarified. Many U.S. consumers already favor meat and dairy alternatives and research suggests there’s a trend towards reducing meat consumption, however, there is still a need for further assistance in how to incorporate more plant-based foods in the diet.
Increasing Fruits and Vegetables
We concur with the DGAC report that additional measures are needed to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. American diets are generally low in fruits and vegetables leading to increased risk of chronic disease and poor health. Around 90% of Americans do not consume the daily-recommended servings of vegetables and 80% do not get their daily amount of fruit. Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients that are difficult for consumers to find elsewhere, such as fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium while still being lower in saturated fat than diets heavy in meat.
While the DGAC report recommends increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, there is limited space on the average Americans plate. We believe it would be a good idea for the recommendation to be edited to promote an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption in tandem with a decrease in animal products, refined grains, and sugars.
Red Meat and Processed Meat
We support the DGAC Report’s conclusion that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) should include a recommendation to lower consumption of red and processed meats. This recommendation has great potential to improve the country’s health. However, while we are in favor of this recommendation overall, it is not specific enough. We believe the recommendation should state to avoid red meat such as steak, hamburgers, roast beef, pork, and lamb while avoiding processed meats such as ham, bacon, corned beef, salami, bologna, and hot dogs. We also feel that the DGAC should not include the recommendation to consume lean meats as it could be confusing to consumers. Let’s make it clear: eat less meat!
It’s great that the DGAC report recommends higher consumption of healthier protein sources, including those that are plant-based. Legumes, soy products, wheat gluten, nuts, and seeds are high in protein and provide other key nutrients such as dietary fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, and potassium. It is our belief that the DGA should recommend increasing consumption of these plant protein sources in place of red and processed meats.
Nutrient Density: Meat Vs Plants
There has been some criticism of the DGA recommendation to consume less red meat, namely from producers of animal product foods. One of these is the claim that meat is “nutrient dense” and essential to good health. We believe this is a dangerous claim because it ignores the harmful, and potentially toxic, components of meat.
Nutrient density is defined as nutrients per calorie. Plant foods typically contain more nutrients than animal foods, such as fiber, micronutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Sustainability and Diet
We strongly endorse the DGAC’s recognition of sustainability as an essential component of federal dietary guidance. There have been many articles and a great amount of research done on the relationship between diets and sustainability. We support the DGAC in recognizing that plant-based diets promote a sustainable food system as well as overall health.
Plant-based diets require fewer environmental resources, such as land, water, and energy, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With increased extremes in weather such as drought, resource shortages as well as population growth, we believe future food needs will be positively addressed with recommendations towards a plant-based diet.
Overall, we support the DGAC recommendations for Americans to eat less meat and more fruits and vegetables. With a little more of a helping hand, in the form of more specific and common wording, the average U.S. consumer will be well on their way to making healthier and more positive dietary choices.
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