Janice Stanger, PhD

Janice Stanger, PhD

Posted February 5, 2011

Published in Health

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Eleven Risky Mistakes the USDA Makes About Plant-Based Diets

Read More: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, protein, USDA, weight loss, whole foods

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You’ll Need Bigger Clothes If You Follow the Government’s Advice   kiwi cut_opt.jpg

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched their Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 with great fanfare. Mostly, the Guidelines are more of the same wimpy advice that has been making Americans fatter and sicker for the last several decades.

The 2010 Guidelines does have a new twist, though. The USDA makes a half-hearted effort to lay out a 100% plant-based eating plan. Appendix 9 of the Guidelines is labeled “Vegan Adaptation of the USDA Food Patterns.”

What a silly task, to “adapt” plant-based eating to a framework built on animal foods that create obesity and disease. This is like writing Shakespeare by revising the script for a boring TV sitcom. Here are eleven of the most hazardous errors the USDA makes in the process, starting at the top of Appendix 9 for the 2,000 calorie a day diet, and working through to the bottom.

1. Severely limiting fruit. Fruit combines super nutrient density with enough calories to make a big dent in your appetite. Study after study consistently shows the unending health benefits of fruit, and this food also facilitates weight loss. On a whole foods, plant-based diet, there is absolutely no need to artificially limit the quantity of fruit eaten.

2. Severely limiting vegetables. The Guidelines specify eleven cups of dark green, red, orange, and “other” vegetables (combined) a week, or about one and a half cups a day. This is not a generous amount. Vegetables are the food with the highest nutrient density per calorie. People should be encouraged to eat as many vegetables as they want. “Other” vegetables are not defined, but would presumably be foods like cauliflower, celery, green peppers, onions, and zucchini.

3. Counting beans and peas (legumes) as a vegetable. Legumes have quite a different caloric density and nutrition profile than true vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach, and carrots) do. For planning an optimal vegan diet, legumes should be thought of as a different category of food. In fact, legumes are listed a second time in Appendix 9 under “protein foods.” Under vegetables, consumers are told to eat one and a half cups of legumes a week, and under “protein foods” admonished to eat another 13 ounces a week. Is the USDA trying to sow confusion, or is it just that they can’t write? Why list with cups in one spot and ounces a few lines down? Clearly not much thought was put into figuring out how to maximize the health-promoting benefits of legumes or defining their fundamental role in a vegan diet.

4. Recommending that people eat the same amount of refined grains as they do of whole grains. While whole grains promote health, refined grains are manufactured (and high profit margin) foods that contribute to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and numerous other chronic illnesses that are killing Americans and bankrupting the country. Yes, people do eat refined grains, that is reality. People also smoke and use drugs. Just because a behavior exists is no reason to

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