How much is too much? Knowing recommended intakes of certain nutrients can help consumers understand food nutrition labels and make healthier choices.
Here are four dietary intake tips from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans which is the basis for the US MyPlate, a nutritional tool published by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and used to encourage health eating patterns in the US. MyPlate is also followed by the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority.
To find out your recommended caloric intake for your age and weight, and for more information on health eating guides visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
Consume less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars.
Added sugar is not necessary for a healthy diet, with high sugar diets linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and dental issues.
Sugar-sweetened beverages have specifically been linked to obesity, especially in children.
Free sugars are those added to food (e.g. sucrose (table sugar), glucose) or those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices, but exclude lactose in milk and milk products as well as those sugars contained in fruit that is still intact – i.e. not juiced. Free sugars should account for less than 10% of daily energy intake.
Consume less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats.
Fats are an important component of our diet. They provide energy (9 kcal per gram), carry fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), and provide essential fatty acids which the body cannot make itself. However, too much fat can be unhealthy, lead to weight gain and increase the risk of associated health problems such as type 1 diabetes, some cancers and joint issues.
Saturated fat intake should be kept to less than 10% of calories a day for adults. A diet too high in saturated fats can increase LDL cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease and stroke.
Limit dietary cholesterol.
The Dietary Guidelines do not offer a set limit for dietary cholesterol; however they do state that people should limit their dietary cholesterol to as little as possible.
In general, foods that are higher in dietary cholesterol, such as fatty meats and high-fat dairy products, are also higher in saturated fats. The primary healthy eating style described in the Dietary Guidelines is limited in saturated fats, and therefore also limited in dietary cholesterol.
Consume less than 2,300 mg per day of sodium.
Dietary guidelines recommend that the general population consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, or around 6 grams (about a teaspoon) of table salt a day, however keeping it below 3 grams may be better.
About 75% of the salt we eat is already added to the food we buy and too much can increase blood pressure and risk of heart attack, kidney disease and stroke. Choose unprocessed, fresh food where possible to keep sodium intake down, and use spices and herbs to add flavour to dishes instead of adding salt.
General recommendations relate to the general population. Anyone with medical conditions who is looking for dietary advice, should talk to their doctor or a dietician.