The Food Label And Dietary Guidelines

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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans which is issued every five years jointly by the Departments of Health and Human Services and of Agriculture represent fundamental, federal government public health policy. The fourth edition of the Dietary Guidelines recognizes the food label, especially the new "Nutrition Facts" label, along with the Food Guide Pyramid as the educational tools American consumers should use to put the Dietary Guidelines into practice. Consumers are advised to: "use the Nutrition Facts Label to choose a healthful diet" (1, page 4). The same guidelines advise Americans to "choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits . .." because they provide complex carbohydrates (1, page 22). However, for the nutrient "complex carbohydrates" the food label is not a very useful tool because "complex carbohydrates" do not appear in the Nutrition Facts panel.

This has been the case since the issuance of the first edition of the Dietary Guidelines in 1980. The first edition advised Americans to

Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber. .. complex carbohydrate foods are better than simple carbohydrates Complex carbohydrate foods-such as beans, peas, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and whole grain breads, cereals and products-contain many essential nutrients in addition to calories (2, page 13).

The Guidelines advise that to eat more complex carbohydrates daily, substitute starches for fats and sugars and select foods that are good sources of fiber and starch (2, page 14). The second edition of the Dietary Guidelines in 1985 continued the advice to

Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber . . . [S]imple carbohydrates, such as sugars, and complex carbohydrates, such as starches, have about the same caloric content. Most foods high in sugars . . . contain no vitamins or minerals. . . . Foods high in starch contain many of these essential nutrients. . . . Eating more foods containing complex carbohy- f drates can also help to add dietary fiber to your diet (3, page 17).

The third edition of the guidelines advised "choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and grain products," with the explanation that "complex carbohydrates, such as starches are in breads, cereals, pasta, rice, dry beans and peas, and other vegetables such as potatoes and corn" (4, page 18).

Food Labels

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