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Federal dietary guidelines target salt, saturated fats

From Val Willingham, CNN
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New dietary guidelines out
  • New guidelines urge people to eat less salt and cut back on saturated fatty acids
  • The guidelines recommend less than 10% of calories come from saturated fats
  • Daily dose: 300 mg or less of cholesterol, one alcoholic drink for women, two for men

(CNN) -- The federal government unveiled new dietary guidelines Monday that urge certain people to cut down on salt.

The guidelines, which are updated every five years, recommend that people over age 51, African-Americans and people with a history of hypertension, diabetes or kidney problems limit their daily salt intake to a little over a half a teaspoon. For everyone else, the daily recommendation remains at 2,300 milligrams -- about one teaspoon of salt.

But that could be tough. A cup of spaghetti and meatballs has approximately 1,000 milligrams of salt in it, and an average frozen meal can have up to 1,500 milligrams in just one serving.

"Most of that salt comes from processed, packaged pre-prepared foods," said Cheryl Achterberg, dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. "So, cutting back a little bit on that and doing some more home-food preparation will make a big difference."

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"I think it is attainable," Achterberg said of the guideline. "It's within reach of many, if not most Americans."

The guidelines also recommended that Americans consume less than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. They also should limit their daily dietary cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less.

People should reduce their intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars and cut down on foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium, according to the guidelines.

"We are asking people to think about calories in and calories out, what exactly are you eating and how much." said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who joined Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to formally announce the guidelines at a news conference Monday in Washington.

And if people drink, the guidelines state that alcohol should be kept to one drink a day for women and two for men.

"The new guidelines recognize that obesity is the No. 1 public health nutrition problem in America and actually gives good advice about what to do about it: eat less and eat better," said Marion Nestle, a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. " For the first time, the guidelines make it clear that eating less is a priority."

The guidelines form the basis for the food pyramid, which guides Americans in their daily eating habits.

CNN Radio's Matt Cherry contributed to this report.