What is "healthy" food?  The FDA is finally updating its answer

What is “healthy” food? The FDA is finally updating its answer

on nutrition

The FDA is finally starting to take a fresh look at what “healthy” means when applied to food. To borrow a phrase from Lizzo, it’s about the curse time, because the last time the FDA set standards food manufacturers and producers could call “healthy” was in 1994. Not only was this during the heyday of thinking about low-fat nutrition, but the agency took a “healthy” reductive view by Focus on individual nutrients rather than the actual foods we eat.

Under those 28-year-old standards, for a food to bear the “healthy” claim, it must limit total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and contain at least small amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein and dietary fiber. This means that simple foods such as nuts, olive oil and salmon cannot call themselves “healthy”, because they are very high in fat, even though they are heart-healthy and are monounsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Meanwhile, some super-processed formulas with added fiber, vitamins, minerals, and yes, sugar — few people were concerned about added sugar in the ’90s — can.

Fortunately, the science of nutrition has evolved. We now know that not all fats or carbohydrates are unhealthy – but what matters is the type and quality of those fats and those carbohydrates. another way Updated standards proposed by the Food and Drug Administration The catch is that they will focus on foods and dietary patterns, because when you eat an overall healthy diet, you get enough of the nutrients you need.

All this corresponds to Dietary Guidelines for Americanswhich is updated every five years rather than every three decades, and defines a healthy eating pattern as one that includes:

  • Vegetables of all kinds. This includes dark green, red and orange; dried or canned beans, peas and lentils; Starchy vegetables like white potatoes, peas, and fresh peas. Other vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, cauliflower, and onions
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Cereals (with at least half whole grains)
  • Dairy products, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as soy drinks and soy milk alternatives
  • protein foods, including lean meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood; dried or canned beans, peas and lentils; Nuts, seeds, and soy products (such as tofu and tempeh)
  • Oils, including “vegetable” oils — olive, canola, peanut, safflower, sunflower, and corn — and oils found in food, such as nuts, seeds, olives, seafood, and avocados

The FDA’s proposal is making adjustments for different food groups to allow a variety of foods to meet the updated definition without encouraging unnecessary saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars. For example, nuts, olive oil, and salmon will not be “punished” for their high fat content, but products made with naturally low-fat or fat-free fruits and vegetables should contain at least 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetables per serving, with no added sugar. A maximum of 10% of the recommended daily limit for sodium and 5% of the daily limit for saturated fat.

Of course, although there are some much-needed nuances in the proposed new standards, they may be too simplistic for some multi-ingredient foods. There is also a risk that some people may compulsively seek out only foods labeled “healthy,” which can contribute to an eating disorder. However, not all people have the same level of nutritional knowledge or the resources to acquire that knowledge. Having up-to-date standards in which packaged foods can include a “healthy” claim can help many people make informed choices with minimal time and effort.

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