By Emily Shetler

This article originally appeared in Tips on Life & Love from Simon & Schuster.

Less sugar… but red meat is A-OK? The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just released new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and experts are already raising serious concerns about what that will mean for the food we consume. While the government came out strong in favor of consuming less added sugar, there was no mention of reducing the amount of red meat consumed.

This controversial omission comes on the heels of the World Health Organization report from last year, stating that consuming red meat and processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and ham is connected to higher rates of cancer. Many physicians and health researchers are concerned that these issues were not addressed in the guidelines, and as a result, Americans will not be making the best diet choices.

“The science on the link between cancer and diet is extensive,” said Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer of the American Cancer Society. In a statement released by the ACS, he went on to say, “by omitting specific diet recommendations, such as eating less red and processed meat, these guidelines miss a critical and significant opportunity to reduce suffering and death from cancer. For most Americans who do not use tobacco, the most important cancer risk factors that can be changed are body weight, diet and physical activity.”

What did the guidelines get right? In a word: sugar. The new guidelines state that the sweet stuff should account for a maximum of 10% of our daily calories, which is far below the average American’s diet. One can of Coke contains the maximum amount of sugar most people are allowed to consume in one day. The American Medical Association was thrilled: “With obesity and its associated health consequences—namely type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease—on the rise throughout our country, the AMA also is extremely pleased that the new recommendations call for significantly reducing the amount of added sugars and sugar sweetened beverages from the American diet.” This is the first time a cap has been placed on the amount of recommended sugar, a reflection of how much we are really consuming.

The rest of the guidelines are no surprise: More fruits and vegetables, grains (50% should be whole), a variety of proteins, and oils. “Americans will be familiar with the majority of our findings,” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

So what is the bottom line for your diet? More fruits and vegetables, less sugar, and when it comes to red meat: Do your own research, listen to the experts, and figure out what is best for you.



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