Nutritious Dietary Patterns

Dietary patterns (also called eating patterns) are the combinations and quantities of food and beverages consumed over time. Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a plant-based dietary pattern is more health-promoting than the current average U.S. diet. However, a “plant-based” eating patterns doesn’t mean only plants; pairing high-quality protein foods, like eggs, with plants is essential for the synthesis and maintenance of muscle tissue, and for achieving optimal vitamin and mineral intakes.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three healthy eating patterns, all of which include eggs. But what are the sample eating patterns, and what are the key differences between them?

To learn more about healthy eating patterns, including those recommended in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, and how eggs fit within those patterns, explore the following PowerPoint, and feel free to share it with friends!

Healthy Eating Patterns: How do Eggs Fit?

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Health and Nutrition Down Under

I recently returned from a vacation in Sydney, Australia where as a dietitian/foodie I enjoyed studying the many culinary similarities we share with people so far away. I was drawn to articles in almost all publications from the most local community newsletter to the biggest city newspaper that discussed nutrition and it’s relation to health. It definitely seems Australians are as interested in fitness and health as Americans seem to be, although there seems to be less regulation on claims that foods and advertisements can make about their products.

Supermarkets seem to be screaming with products that claim to be packed with nutrients that insure health, although I’m not sure how a consumer can know which claims have scientific substantiation and which are marketing. I purchased eggs which were not refrigerated because I’m assuming they vaccinate their hens to prevent the growth of Salmonella. The variety of eggs available is dumbfounding. There were many free range eggs and others that were caged but the ones that I purchased were from a producer called “Happy Hens” egg farm. I found it interesting that these eggs specify that they are naturally grain fed eggs and are locally produced in Victoria and carry the National Heart Foundation approved check or tick “because they are a nutritious food”.  I can’t imagine how anyone has the time or interest to weigh the pros and cons of all those issues before choosing which eggs to purchase. I suspect that most consumers like me looked at the price and at $4.75/doz decided these lowest cost eggs were the best choice. I wonder if this is an example of getting what we wish for.

Do we really want the burden of deciphering an arm’s length of different claims on all our food before we purchase the most basic pantry items? I’m also wondering how consumers can prioritize which nutrition claims are the most important and which are less important for health?

~Marcia

Free Range, Organic, Conventional and Everything In Between

Some many choices, so little time to research the facts. That’s often the conundrum the average shopper finds themselves in these days. We all want the best for our families, but what does “best” really mean? With respect to eggs, producers offer variety to consumers in the form of organic eggs and cage free eggs, among other choices. But is one type of egg really healthier than another? A quick primer on these issues may help:

To be considered organic, eggs must meet a set of national standards developed by the National Organic Standard Board. Organic eggs are produced by hens given feed without pesticides, herbicides, or commercial fertilizers. The use of hormones or antibiotics is also prohibited in birds that provide organic eggs. The rub is that commercial egg producers do not use hormones or antibiotics routinely anyway. So non-organic eggs are pretty much as “untainted” as their organic cousins. Further, non-organic eggs are every bit as nutritious as organic eggs.

Cage free eggs come from hens living in indoor floor facilities. These hens do not necessarily have access to the outdoors. While some folks prefer eggs produced by cage free birds because they feel these hens live more humanely, the fact of the matter is that modern cages are designed with the bird’s welfare in mind. In the hen house, birds are more readily protected from the elements, from diseases, and from natural and unnatural predators. The diet of the caged bird is also more well controlled, leading to the production of eggs of unmatched nutritional quality. Research has continually shown that the eggs produced by caged hens are at least as nutritious, if not more so, than eggs from birds that eat a less controlled diet. And, it should be pointed out that mortality rates are higher in hens living in cage free environments.

– Mitch

An Egg A Day is OK

Most of you have probably seen or heard some of the highlights of the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines. With respect to healthy meal patterning, the Guidelines heavily stressed the inclusion of nutrient dense foods in the diets- foods that give you lots of nutrients, and not a lot of calories – foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and eggs. The Guidelines also indicate that we should de-emphasize the use of solid fats (mainly saturated and trans fats), simple sugars, refined grains and sodium. Nothing earth-shattering here, but a good reminder that the “4 S’s” (solid fats; starches; sugars; salt) can wreak havoc on our diet and our health if eaten in excess.

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From an Egg Nutrition Center perspective, we were heartened to see that the Guidelines, for the first time, actually indicate that eating an egg-a-day is OK. No doubt that this was an acknowledgment that eggs are a great source of high quality protein, and a great nutrient dense food.  Likely factoring into this conclusion as well were studies such as those by Qureshi et al (Med Sci Monitor. 2007; 13:CR1-8)   which indicated that regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke or cardiovascular diseases; and Lee et al. (Brit Nutr Found 2006; 31:21-27) which indicate that eating eggs daily does not have significant impact on blood cholesterol or heart disease risk.

Often overlooked by the public, the Dietary Guidelines offer a treasure trove of good information about diet, health and nutrition in easy-to-understand language. If you’re interested, you can access the Guidelines via this link: 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

 It’s worth a look-see.

2010 Dietary Guidelines: Focus on Nutrient Density

According to Monday’s announcement of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, proper balance is the key to a healthy diet.  The Guidelines point out that many Americans consume less than optimal intake of certain nutrients even though they have adequate resources for a healthy diet. The Guidelines also recommend that Americans focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages.

Though the concept of “nutrient density” is either new or misunderstood by many consumers, it’s basically a term that speaks to the amount of good, solid nutrition you can pack into a food for the fewest calories possible. And eating highly nutritious, lower calorie foods (i.e., nutrient dense foods) can have obvious implications for promoting weight control and good health.  A “poster child” for nutrient density is the egg. Try to think of a natural food product besides the egg that packs so much nutrition- -13 vitamins and minerals and 7 gms of high quality protein, into a 70 calorie package. I’ll bet you can’t do it.  So it’s no accident that the recent Guidelines call out eggs in a number of instances as an example of a good nutrient dense food. Coupled with the fact that an egg costs only about $0.15 per serving, it’s understandable to think why the egg should be considered one of our most “efficient” foods (efficient calorically/nutritionally; efficient economically!).

So how can you bring a little more nutrient density into you own diet?  An easy fix is to substitute an egg in the morning (70 kcals) for (the admittedly more convenient) Pop Tart (210 kcals; 8 gms fat; 13 gms sugar). Another would be to replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats (e.g.-certain cuts of meat) with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories   (e.g.-fish, chicken, eggs).

Obviously there is a bit of individuality in how we can bring a little more “nutrient density” into our lives. However you choose to do it, focus on foods that will give you the most “bang-for-your buck” nutritionally; foods low in calories that are highly nutritious. They do exist. You just may have to search a bit!

-Mitch

2010 Dietary Guidelines: Focus on High Quality Protein

On January 31st, the USDA and HHS presented the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and thereby upheld their Congressionally mandated responsibility to provide science-based nutritional and dietary guidance to the general public in a document that serves as the foundation for federal nutrition education and promotion programs. This was the first time the dietary guidelines were based on an evidence based body of scientific knowledge, reviewed by an elite group of scientific advisors, and written to suggest best practices for the many stakeholders that produce and deliver food to the American public. This is no small task and those who participated should be widely commended.

A main focus of the guidance is to consume nutrient dense foods. Nutrient density, possibly an unfortunate term, defines a food by its nutrient content for the amount of calories it provides. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, individuals should “increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed” and “replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats”. Choosing foods that supply high quality protein with minimal solid or unhealthful fats would be an example of nutrient density. If seafood and fish were plentiful and affordable it would be easy to “increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed” as recommended. Milk, meat, poultry, and eggs in addition to seafood supply high quality protein along with many valuable nutrients in natural combinations that have supported life on earth and allowed mankind to evolve. Therefore, for optimal health it is important to vary lean protein foods including lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds to get a full complement of all the needed nutrients.

Although the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are correct in stressing the importance of incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into the American diet, it is still important to remember that high quality protein foods supply many nutrients such as heme iron, vitamin B12, calcium and zinc which are in short supply in fruits/vegetables and whole grains. If there are foods to be avoided, I would suggest the grain based desserts (pie, pastry, granola bars) which from the tables and charts within the guidance document appear to supply substantial amounts of both solid fats and added sugar without a sufficient nutrient balance.

– Marcia