Compared with the many people who consume a dietary pattern with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancers in certain sites (oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, stomach, and colon-rectum). Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Diets rich in milk and milk products can reduce the risk of low bone mass throughout the life cycle. The consumption of milk products is especially important for children and adolescents who are building their peak bone mass and developing lifelong habits. Although each of these food groups may have a different relationship with disease outcomes, the adequate consumption of all food groups contributes to overall health.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and milk products are all important to a healthful diet and can be good sources of the nutrients of concern (see ch. 2). When increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fatfree or low-fat milk and milk products, it is important to decrease one’s intake of less-nutrient-dense foods to control calorie intake. The 2,000 calorie level used in the discussion is a reference level only; it is not a recommended calorie intake because many Americans should be consuming fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight.
Fruits and VegetablesFour and one-half cups (nine servings) of fruits and vegetables are recommended daily for the reference 2,000 calorie level, with higher or lower amounts depending on the caloric level. This results in a range of 21/2 to 61/2 cups (5 to 13 servings) of fruits and vegetables each day for the 1,200 to 3,200 calorie levels. Fruits and vegetables provide a variety of micronutrients and fiber. In the fruit group, consumption of whole fruits (fresh, frozen, canned, dried) rather than fruit juice for the majority of the total daily amount is suggested to ensure adequate fiber intake. Different vegetables are rich in different nutrients. In the vegetable group, weekly intake of specific amounts from each of five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes [dry beans], starchy, and other vegetables) is recommended for adequate nutrient intake. Each subgroup provides a somewhat different array of nutrients. In the USDA Food Guide at the reference 2,000 calorie level, the following weekly amounts are recommended:
- Dark green vegetables - 3 cups/week
- Orange vegetables - 2 cups/week
- Legumes (dry beans) - 3 cups/week
- Starchy vegetables - 3 cups/week
- Other vegetables - 61/2 cups/week
Whole GrainsIn addition to fruits and vegetables, whole grains are an important source of fiber and other nutrients. Whole grains, as well as foods made from them, consist of the entire grain seed, usually called the kernel. The kernel is made of three components—the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. If the kernel has been cracked, crushed, or flaked, then it must retain nearly the same relative proportions of bran, germ, and endosperm as the original grain to be called whole grain. In the grain-refining process, most of the bran and some of the germ is removed, resulting in the loss of dietary fiber (also known as cereal fiber), vitamins, minerals, lignans, phytoestrogens, phenolic compounds, and phytic acid. Some manufacturers add bran to grain products to increase the dietary fiber content. Refined grains are the resulting product of the grain-refining processing. Most refined grains are enriched before being further processed into foods. Enriched refined grain products that conform to standards of identity are required by law to be fortified with folic acid, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. Food manufacturers may fortify whole-grain foods where regulations permit the addition of folic acid. Currently, a number of whole-grain, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid. As illustrated by the comparison of whole-wheat and enriched white flours in table 6, many nutrients occur at higher or similar levels in whole grains when compared to enriched grains, but whole grains have less folate unless they have been fortified with folic acid.
Consuming at least 3 or more ounce equivalents of whole grains per day can reduce the risk of several chronic diseases and may help with weight maintenance. Thus, daily intake of at least 3 ounce equivalents of whole grains per day is recommended by substituting whole grains for refined grains. However, because three servings may be difficult for younger children to achieve, it is recommended that they increase whole grains into their diets as they grow. At all calorie levels, all age groups should consume at least half the grains as whole grains to achieve the fiber recommendation. All grain servings can be whole-grain; however, it is advisable to include some folate-fortified products, such as folate-fortified whole-grain cereals, in these whole-grain choices.
Whole grains cannot be identified by the color of the food; label-reading skills are needed. For information about the ingredients in whole-grain and enriched-grain products, read the ingredient list on the food label. For many whole-grain products, the words “whole” or “whole grain” will appear before the grain ingredient’s name. The whole grain should be the first ingredient listed. Wheat flour, enriched flour, and degerminated cornmeal are not whole grains. The Food and Drug Administration requires foods that bear the whole-grain health claim to (1) contain 51 percent or more whole-grain ingredients by weight per reference amount and (2) be low in fat.
Milk and Milk ProductsAnother source of nutrients is milk and milk products. Milk product consumption has been associated with overall diet quality and adequacy of intake of many nutrients. The intake of milk products is especially important to bone health during childhood and adolescence. Studies specifically on milk and other milk products, such as yogurt and cheese, showed a positive relationship between the intake of milk and milk products and bone mineral content or bone mineral density in one or more skeletal sites.
Adults and children should not avoid milk and milk products because of concerns that these foods lead to weight gain. There are many fat-free and low-fat choices without added sugars that are available and consistent with an overall healthy dietary plan. If a person wants to consider milk alternatives because of lactose intolerance, the most reliable and easiest ways to derive the health benefits associated with milk and milk product consumption is to choose alternatives within the milk food group, such as yogurt or lactose-free milk, or to consume the enzyme lactase prior to the consumption of milk products. For individuals who choose to or must avoid all milk products (e.g., individuals with lactose intolerance, vegans), non-dairy calcium-containing alternatives may be selected to help meet calcium needs.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
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