2003 Nutrition Guidelines

The Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board recently announced new guidelines on food and nutrition. The IOM is the medical branch of the National Academy of Sciences and the government's advisor on health policy.

While past IOM guidelines have focused on vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) these most recent recommendations focus on a balance of the major components of overall dietary intake of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins (macronutrients).

The most important dietary changes in the new recommendations involve fats and carbohydrates. Earlier advice had capped fat intake at 30% of total calories and set a limit of 50% for carbohydrates. In light of recent studies that have shown that low-fat, high carbohydrate diets can reduce high-density lipoprotein (HDL) "good cholesterol" and increase triglycerides (an independent risk factor for heart disease.) the IOM suggests that adults can meet their energy and nutrient needs and reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases by eating 20%-35% of calories from fats, 45%-65% from carbohydrates, and 10%-35% from protein.

The IOM advises that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids should be the major source of fat in the diet. These fatty acids contain omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids that our bodies need, but can't make so they must come from food. Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in soybean, safflower, and corn oils, and in nuts and seeds. Good sources of omega-3s include soybean, flaxseed, and canola oils and cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish. The IOM advises women to get 12 grams/day of omega-6 fatty acids and 1.1 grams/day of omega-3s. Men are recommended to get 15 grams/day of omega-6 fatty acids and 1.6 grams/day of omega-3s.

A high-fat diet can lead to weight gain and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. The IOM recommends eating as little saturated fat as possible (from meats and full-fat dairy products, for example) because they increase levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad cholesterol". The recommendations also suggest that there is no safe level of trans fatty acid (trans fat) intake (found in hydrogenated vegetable oils used in many commercially baked goods and snacks). Trans fat should, therefore, be limited in the diet.

For the first time, the IOM has made a fiber recommendation, advising women over 50 to consume 21 grams/day and men 30 grams/day and women under age 50 to get 25 grams/day and men 38 grams/day. Fiber is healthy because it speeds up the movement of waste through our intestines, slows digestion and inhibits fat and cholesterol absorption. The most healthful fiber comes from non-digestible carbohydrates in plants. Sweet potatoes, legumes, whole grains, cereal products, onions, and apples are some high fiber food sources.

The report also advises that we get no more than 25% of calories from added sugars, like those found in soft drinks and candy. Sugars are also in breads, cereals, muffins, energy bars, fruit drinks, many canned fruits, ice cream, flavored yogurt etc. Read labels. The only NATURAL sugars are in fruits, vegetables and lactose in dairy products. Eating more than this amount of sugar may interfere with our intake of vitamins and minerals from healthier foods, when we eat too many processed foods.
Nanci S. Guest is a certified personal trainer & nutritionist, and is completing her Master of Science degree in nutrition this June. She owns "Power Play: Nutrition, Fitness, Performance" in Vancouver, BC, and for the past 8 years she has been providing individuals, sports teams & the community with nutritional consulting & personal training services, as well as research services, seminars and article writing for local & national publications.

Her specialization is sports nutrition, catering to a variety of athletes of all levels. Some of her elite athletic clientele include members of the Vancouver Canucks, the Vancouver Giants & the BC Lions, the Canadian National Freestyle Ski Team, Iron Man participants, athletic teams from BC high schools and universities, and a variety of other provincial and national team members.

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