kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

The federal government issued new dietary guidelines at the end of 2020 that keep current allowances for sugar and alcohol consumption unchanged, rejecting recommendations by its scientific advisory committee to make significant cuts.

The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” are updated every five years.

These guidelines shape school lunch programs, mold state and local health-promotion efforts, and influence what food companies produce.

The latest guidelines do not address the current pandemic nor, critics say, new scientific consensus about the need to adopt dietary patterns that reduce food insecurity and chronic disease. Climate change does not figure into the advice, nor does sustainability or greenhouse gas emissions, both of which are tied to modern food production.

The scientific committee, which was composed of 20 academics and doctors, had recommended cutting the limit for added sugars in the diet to 6% of daily calories from 10%, citing rising rates of obesity and the link between obesity and health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and the increased the risk for severe illness with Covid-19.

The committee also recommended lowering the limit for alcoholic beverages for men to one drink per day from two, matching the guidance for women. The committee cited the growing body of evidence that consuming higher amounts of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of death.

Even with evidence, the officials at the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services rejected putting a cap on sugar and alcohol consumption.

The new guidelines do include the scientific committee’s recommendation that children under age 2 consume no added sugars at all. This is the first time the guidelines have included recommendations for babies and toddlers. Added sugars are those found in processed foods, in everything from soda to breakfast cereal. They don’t include sugars naturally found in foods like fruit.

“One of the biggest health challenges related to nutrition in this country is overweight and obesity,” says Elizabeth J. Mayer-Davis, chair of the nutrition department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who chaired the federal committee’s beverages and added sugars subcommittee.

Most Americans aren’t limiting their added sugar to the current 10% guideline. Nearly two-thirds of people age 1 and older consumed more than 10% of their daily calories in added sugar, according to 2013-2016 data analyzed by the committee. The mean consumption is 13%.

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) released its report last July. The Physicians Committee applauded the DGAC for recommending that Americans should avoid saturated fat, cholesterol, and red and processed meat and instead focus on carbohydrate-rich plant-based foods for optimal health.

But the DGAC failed to warn against dairy products, which are the leading source of saturated fat in the American diet and increase the risk of heart disease, breast and prostate cancers, and other health conditions. In August, the Physicians Committee submitted a letter to the USDA and HHS, signed by nearly 500 health care professionals, arguing that the DGAC’s scientific report “preserves antiquated, racially biased dairy-promoting guidelines, despite clear contributions to health problems that take a disproportionate toll in Black Americans and other demographic groups.”

Being an avid basketball fan, I particularly liked that four-time NBA champion John Salley testified before the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services to urge the agencies to indicate in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that dairy products are unnecessary and take a disproportionate health toll on people of color. Salley, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, and Chicago Bulls, testified on behalf of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Although dairy products are a leading source of saturated fat in the American diet, the new guidelines do recommend people avoid saturated fat because of its link to heart disease. Diary wasn’t cited despite scientific evidence showing that milk and other dairy products increase the risk of asthma, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, cognitive decline, and early death, and offer little if any protection for bone health.

Dairy products also cause bloating, diarrhea, and gas in the tens of millions of Americans who have lactose intolerance, the natural progression of not breaking down sugar in milk. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 30 million to 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant.

In July 2018, the American Medical Association passed a resolution calling on the USDA and HHS to recognize that lactose intolerance is common among many Americans, especially African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, and to clearly indicate in the guidelines and other federal nutrition guidelines that dairy products are optional.

Americans already consume too few carbohydrates in the forms of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Only one in 10 adults eats enough fruits and vegetables, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, a study in JAMA attributed 52,547 deaths from heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes in 2012 to consuming too few fruits and 53,410 deaths to consuming too few vegetables. Consuming too few whole grains was associated with 11,639 deaths from type 2 diabetes.

Fiber-rich carbohydrates should provide most of the calories in a healthy diet and are the main fuel for the brain and muscles. About three-quarters of daily calories should come from carbs. Studies show that a diet rich in healthy carbs from fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes can help prevent and reverse the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

The risks of consuming processed meat such as hot dogs, bacon, sausages, and deli meat were clear when the current guidelines were published, and the evidence against them has continued to mount.

In 2015, after 22 experts from 10 countries assessed more than 800 epidemiological studies, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified consumption of processed meat as “‘carcinogenic to humans’ (Group 1) on the basis of sufficient evidence for colorectal cancer.” The experts highlighted a meta-analysis that concluded that each 50-gram portion of processed meat (about one hot dog) eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.

Studies show that processed meat also increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. A study published in JAMA found that processed meat consumption was tied to 57,766 deaths from heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes in 2012. Other studies have linked it to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

I find it amazing that a recent survey of nearly 44,000 U.S. adults found that “despite growing public health concerns about processed meat consumption, there have been no changes in the amount of processed meat consumed by US adults over the last 18 years.”

Critics of the new guidelines were disappointed that the federal agencies have ignored the recommendations of the scientific advisory committee. These guidelines are science-based but the Trump administration ignored the recommendation of the scientific committee they appointed and reverted to the recommendation of the previous guidelines.

The composition of the advisory committees drew scrutiny this year because of many ties to the beef and dairy industries.

Horseradish

Horseradish is thought to have originated in Southern Europe and Western Asia. It is used mainly in cooking and has medicinal applications.  It’s a cruciferous vegetable, like mustard, wasabi, cabbage, broccoli, and kale. It has a long, white root and green leaves.

When the root is cut, an enzyme breaks down a compound called sinigrin into a mustard oil. This oil, known as allyl isothiocyanate, gives horseradish its telltale odor and taste and may irritate your eyes, nose, and throat.

Allyl isothiocyanate has antibacterial properties. Studies suggest that it may fight dangerous bacteria, including E. coli, H. pylori, and Salmonella. One test-tube study noted that isothiocyanates extracted from horseradish root killed six types of oral bacteria. Another test-tube study found that these isothiocyanates prevented the growth of four types of fungi that may lead to chronic nail infections.

Sinigrin, the oil released, is a glucosinolate, a sulfur-containing compound found in cruciferous vegetables. Glucosinolates are know to fight against infections, and brain diseases. Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates in horseradish may also protect against cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, as well as promoting their death. Test-tube studies suggest that horseradish compounds may prevent the growth of colon, lung, and stomach cancer. Peroxidase, an enzyme found in this root, helps activate and boost a powerful anticancer compound that targets human pancreatic cancer cells.

Sinigrin helps to reduce inflammation by blocking or changing the parts of the immune system that cause inflammation. These same studies suggest that sinigrin could help relieve symptoms of atherosclerosis.

The health benefits of horseradish are mainly attributed to its high nutrient and mineral content, which include dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.

Horseradish is packed with antioxidants which boost the strength of the immune system and stimulate the activity and production of white blood cells, the body’s line of defense. The vitamin C content of horseradish fights free radicals. Sinigrin, may also act as an antioxidants and fight cell damage caused by free radicals.

Horseradish is low in calories and high on fiber.

Horseradish is cholagogue which is an agent that spurs the release of bile from the gallbladder and promotes healthy digestion.

Horseradish has a diuretic quality that stimulates urination. This is good for a number of reasons, including the regular release of toxins from the body, cleanliness of the kidney, and a reduction in weight, since 4 percent of urine is actually composed of body fat!

Consuming horseradish is known to cause a burning sensation in your sinuses, nose, and throat. For that reason, it’s often used to relieve colds and breathing issues. One study in over 1,500 people found that a supplement containing 80 mg of dried horseradish root and 200 mg of nasturtium was as effective as a traditional antibiotic at treating acute sinus infections and bronchitis.

Taking a strong sniff or inhalation of pure horseradish can clear out congestion developed due to a cold, illness, or allergy.

Horseradish is quite high in sodium and sugar. Although it is usually consumed in small amounts, it is still important to remember that sodium can be detrimental to people struggling with hypertension and obesity. Also, because horseradish is slightly diuretic, it can exacerbate problems for people with kidney disorders. It may be especially bothersome to people with stomach ulcers, digestive issues, or inflammatory bowel disease.

Horseradish is actually poisonous to horses!

How to Buy

Fresh horseradish root is available year-round in most markets, but prime season is in spring. The roots are usually sold in 2-inch long sections (although the whole root can range up to 20 inches), measuring 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Choose roots that are firm and have no mold, soft or green spots. Older roots will look shriveled and dry. They may even begin to sprout. These are to be avoided.

Bottled prepared horseradish is readily available in the refrigerated condiment section of grocery stores. Prepared horseradish is preserved in vinegar and salt. The red variety uses beet juice.

Dried horseradish is also available in many markets. It must be reconstituted with water or other liquid before using.

 

How to Store

Store horseradish root unwashed in a reusable silicone bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. It begins to dry up as soon as it is cut, so try to use it within a week or two for fullest flavor. Once it is cut or grated, used within a few days unless you preserve it in vinegar.

Prepared horseradish will last up to 3 months in the refrigerator. However, it quickly loses pungency and is best used within 3 to 4 weeks. When it begins to turn dark, it is time to toss it. Freezing of prepared horseradish is not recommended.

 

How to Cook

Horseradish is mostly used as a condiment.

It’s typically consumed as prepared horseradish, which is made from the grated root, plus vinegar, sugar, and salt. Horseradish sauce, another popular garnish, adds sour cream or mayo to the mix.

Peel fresh horseradish, then slice it. Fresh horseradish can be boiled, sautéed, or grilled. It pairs well with other root vegetables, including beets and potatoes, as well as with broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

Beet Hippie Bowls with Horseradish Cream

Kristie/ The Mostly Vegan

2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups prepared red quinoa (white quinoa or any rice will work, too)
  • 3 large beets, peeled and sliced into half moons
  • 1 bunch young carrots, sliced in half lengthwise (can switch out for parsnips)
  • 3 handfuls kale, roughly torn
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
Horseradish Cream
  • ½ cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked for 2 – 24 hours
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk (add ¼ cup more for a runnier dressing)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2-4 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish (add gradually and test for spiciness)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and toss beets with 2 teaspoons olive oil and a tablespoon of thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes, until edges turn crispy.
  2. Toss carrots with remaining teaspoon of olive oil and tablespoon of thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes, tossing frequently to brown on all sides. When carrots are done, remove from pan and lower heat to medium. Add kale and saute until just wilted, about 2 minutes.
  3. Divide quinoa, beets, carrots, and kale between two bowls. Drizzle with horseradish cream.
Horseradish Cream
  1. Combine drained cashews, coconut milk, lemon juice, horseradish, garlic and salt and pepper in a high speed blender. Mix until very smooth, about 2 minutes, then add parsley. Blend for 10 seconds more.

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