WASHINGTON — You can worry less about eggs now, as long as you worry more about chicken. Fish are good for you — certain ones, anyway.
And Big Sugar? Not off the hook at all.
The release of the new dietary guidelines on Thursday was a big event for the food industry, but it’s also an important event for anyone who’s concerned about public health — and, really, for anyone who’s trying to keep up with the latest thinking on what’s healthy eating and what’s not.
Here are the highlights of the winners and losers on your plate:
Winner: the egg
Up until now, chicken was considered poultry, and, as such, it was deemed healthy. Now, chicken is grouped with the meats, and hence the guidelines say it should be limited, along with lean beef.
Eggs, however, are catching a break, due to the guidelines’ omission of a limit on cholesterol. Although the Egg Nutrition Center is pleased, a close read of the report shows several spots where the authors recommend keeping cholesterol intake as close to zero as possible. But the lack of a numerical limit allows the egg industry to claim victory, saying the report “removes the daily limit on cholesterol.”
Winners: fruits, vegetables
Losers: sugar, candy makers and food processors
The guidelines call for limiting daily intake of added sugar to 10 percent of all calories. This is a bad blow to the sugar industry, candy makers, soft drink companies, and food processors who have long added sugar to make their products more tempting.
Fruits and vegetables, grains, and legumes, as usual, are listed as the gold standard of healthy foods. The report recommends eating fresh fruit, reducing consumption of fruit juices, and, for a tart treat, cranberries and rhubarb.
There’s another threat looming to the sugar industry: The FDA has proposed adding daily limits to the nutritional labels required for food. Right now, unlike the other categories — say, fats and carbohydrates — there are no listings of recommended daily caps on added sugar.
The Sugar Association said it was disappointed in the 10 percent cap, arguing that the guidelines were “based on weak science of low evidentiary value.” A spokeswoman predicted that they would eventually be reversed.
Winner: non-mercury-laden fish
Losers: bacon, sausage and hot dogs
The report says there is strong evidence that lower intake of meat, processed meats, and processed poultry are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in adults. The report recommends that “meats and poultry should be consumed in lean forms.”
Under the guidelines, processed meats like hot dogs, which have high levels of sodium and saturated fats, can fit into a diet only if their contribution doesn’t put one’s total intake of sodium and fat over the recommended limits — no more than 10 percent of a day’s calories, and no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium for people with hypertension, or at risk of it. That’s not easy for those who love hot dogs, sausage, and other fatty meats.
The report says you can eat lots of fish, as long as it’s low in methyl mercury, a metal which can cause cognitive problems and other disorders. The report cites salmon, anchovies, herring, shad, sardines, Pacific oysters, and Pacific mackerel as good choices. It warns that king mackerel has too much of the bad stuff.
Don’t think the meat industry is upset by the report, though. Industry groups are looking on the bright side.
“Meat and poultry products are among the most nutrient-dense foods available,” said North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter, who declared that the guidelines “confirm that a variety of dietary patterns can be followed to achieve a healthy eating pattern.”
Winner: North American Meat Institute
Loser: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network
The link between red meat consumption and colon cancer, which was noted in the advisory committee report, was taken out of the final version, despite heavy lobbying by the cancer group to keep it.
Katie McMahon, a policy expert with the group, said although she was pleased that the report mentioned the link between meat and cardiovascular disease, she was disappointed that the cancer risk was eliminated.
Winners: low-fat milk and low-sugar yogurt
The report suggests drinking low-fat milk and eating low-sugar yogurt. It doesn’t say one kind word about cheese.