Foods and substances to reduce
Americans — including those with diabetes — consume too much sodium, solid fats, added sugars, and refined grains, all of which may increase the risk of chronic diseases. Excessive alcohol intake is also an important health concern. Reducing your intake of these substances and boosting your intake of nutrient-dense foods will help you better meet your nutrition needs and stay in calorie balance.
The current recommendation regarding sodium for most people is to consume less than 2300 milligrams daily; however, people ages 51 and above and those of any age who are African-American or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease are advised to consume no more than 1500 milligrams daily. The estimated average intake of sodium for Americans ages 2 and above is 3400 mg per day, with most of it coming from salt added during food processing. (For more information on reducing sodium intake, see “Shaking the Salt Habit.”)
The report advises getting less than 10% of total dietary calories from saturated fat, consuming less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol, and keeping trans fat consumption as low as possible. In practical terms, this means choosing soft margarines with zero grams of trans fat rather than stick margarine or butter; using vegetable oils such as olive, canola, corn, safflower, and sunflower oil rather than solid fats when cooking; and using only small amounts of fat and oil in cooking.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 introduced a new term to the nutrition world: SoFAS, an acronym for solid fats and added sugars. These substances are consumed excessively by Americans, amounting to almost 35% of caloric intake or nearly 800 calories per day. By reducing your consumption of SoFAS, you’ll have more room in your diet for nutrient-dense foods — and it will be easier to stay in calorie balance. The report recommends that no more than 5% to 15% of total dietary calories come from SoFAS. Solid fats are most often found in cakes, cookies, pastries, ice cream, cheeses, and processed and fatty meats. Added sugars are commonly found in regular soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, desserts, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, and candy.
You can cut back on SoFAS with low-fat cooking methods such as steaming and broiling; selecting lean meats and poultry; choosing fat-free or low-fat dairy products; and drinking water, 100% fruit juice, or unsweetened tea or coffee in place of sugar-sweetened drinks.
Refined grains have undergone processing that removes vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Grains that are less refined and closer to their original form not only contain these nutrients but are also broken down in the body and digested more slowly, helping to prevent spikes in blood glucose after meals. Eating fewer refined grain products and replacing them with whole-grain foods is a good way to improve your overall nutrition.
Alcohol can have either positive or negative health effects, depending on the amount consumed and the age and characteristics of the person consuming it. Moderate drinking (no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and may have other health benefits. However, these potential benefits are not compelling enough to recommend that someone begin to drink, particularly in light of the risks associated with alcohol consumption. If you do drink alcohol, beware of the caloric and carbohydrate content of drinks — especially those made with mixers — and of the potential for hypoglycemia after drinking, especially if you take insulin or a drug that increases insulin production (such as glyburide, glipizide, or glimepiride).