Every 5 years the USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services publish updated dietary guidelines for the American public based on recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) is responsible for providing the US Federal government with current research-based evidence on diet, health, and nutrition, in a document titled the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. From this report, the Federal government develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015, which will be released later this year.
For the first time in history, the DGAC has suggested that ‘health, dietary guidance, and the environment’ be considered in dietary choices and encourages people to focus their diet on whole natural plant foods including vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc. The committee especially emphasized the importance of the inclusion of vegetables and fruit in a healthy diet, which make up one-half of the current USDA MyPlate graphic.
The DGAC considers healthy plant-based diets to be more nutritious and of lower ‘environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use’ than the average US diet. The committee acknowledges an overlap between health-promoting plant-based diets and reduced environmental impact. This connection has been a topic of discussion for many years in health circles, and now more than ever has become an especially timely topic given the current drought situation in many of the US western states, including California, where much of the food in the United States is grown.
The committee recognizes that access to food is a major consideration and that ‘a sustainable diet ensures this access for both the current population and future generations.’ It is good to see that research-based strategies for producing enough food to feed our growing population healthfully and sustainably are beginning to get the attention of US policy makers. Intake of animal-based foods in the US is currently higher than the suggested plant-focused dietary patterns suggested by the committee. The committee is not necessarily asking people to completely give up any particular type of food, but rather to have a dietary emphasis on whole plant foods for both health and sustainability reasons.
It will be interesting to see the extent to which these plant-focused recommendations by the DGAC are reflected in the final Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015. Regardless of the special interests that may have influence over the final document, I am happy to see that the DGAC makes their recommendations based on sound research and recognizes that the most health promoting diet is also the most environmentally sustainable. I am also pleased to see that the suggestions advocated by the committee are more aligned than ever with the information we teach in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.
References and Research
Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: