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Before Going "All In" on New Dietary Guidelines, Remember the Egg

Eggs
I started my morning today by eating a hard-boiled egg for breakfast, and now I don’t have to feel guilty about it.

The new U.S. Dietary Guidelines released last week lifted the limits on dietary cholesterol. So I can enjoy an egg for breakfast – yolk and all – and know that I’m making a healthy choice.

Growing up, my family went “all in” with the low-fat craze of the ‘90s. We never had butter in our fridge, only “light” margarine. I ate giant bagels for breakfast because they were low-fat – never mind all the calories.

Now it turns out that a little fat isn’t bad. Yet the advisory committee that wrote the 2015 Dietary Guidelines didn’t entirely give up its restrictive ways. The committee still calls for limiting saturated fat and, unfortunately, reducing red meat consumption.

Their outdated recommendation overlooks the fact that beef and pork are excellent sources of protein and often-lacking nutrients in our diets, such as iron, zinc, vitamins B12 and B6, niacin and thiamin.

Plus, the beef and pork cuts you can find at the grocery store today are much leaner than they were in the 1970s, when the government first called for limiting fat in our diet.

Today, U.S. farmers are raising leaner animals to provide consumers with healthy, nutritious protein for themselves and their families.

The American Heart Association recently gave its “Heart-Check” mark to 96 percent lean ground beef. This is in addition to eight other beef cuts that meet the American Heart Association’s requirements for heart-healthy foods.

So why is there so much conflicting information about healthy eating? Surprisingly, even the experts admit that nutrition science isn’t concrete.

Last year, I was invited to attend a class taught by Stephanie Clark, a professor of food science and nutrition at Iowa State University (ISU), discussing common misconceptions about dairy foods.

Clark explained that most nutrition science is based on observational studies. Researchers ask their test subjects what they are eating, sometimes over the course of several years, and then they try to determine a cause and effect based on those answers.

The problem is not many of us remember what we ate for lunch yesterday, let alone one week or one year ago, Clark said.

And the research may not measure for other lifestyle factors, such as how active we are during the day.

That’s why nutritional science is always changing and what is recommended today may be scrapped when the next U.S. Dietary Guidelines are released in five years.

Yet most nutritional experts agree that healthy eating is about balance.

Dietitians recommend following the government’s current “MyPlate” guidelines: Fill one-half your plate with fruits and vegetables; one-quarter of your plate with lean meat and protein; and one-quarter of your plate with a grain, preferably whole grain; plus include a serving of low-fat milk or dairy.

In addition, the DASH eating plan was recently rated one of the top diets for 2015.

The science-based DASH plan includes lean meats, low-fat dairy, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and even a few sweets in moderation.

Healthy eating comes down to our choices. It’s about choosing the side salad instead of the fries, a glass of water instead of the fancy coffee drink, or a low-fat yogurt instead of a candy bar or chips for a snack.

And it’s good to know that the dietary recommendations, once again, realize that an egg for breakfast is a healthy choice.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau's Senior Features Writer.