Bit by bit, Americans are eating healthier

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Published: December, 2019

Americans are starting to eat a healthier diet, but we still have a long way to go, suggests a study (which included Harvard research) published Sept. 24, 2019, in JAMA. Researchers looked at health survey responses gathered from 1999 to 2016 from almost 44,000 American men and women. The good news: during the study, participants improved on the 100-point Healthy Eating Index, thanks to higher intakes of high-quality carbohydrates (such as whole grains), plant protein (such as whole grains and nuts), and unsaturated fats; and lower intakes of added sugars. The not-so-good news: 42% of the American diet is still coming from low-quality carbs, and about 12% is coming from saturated fat. Like turning a massive battleship, it takes time to change eating patterns. These findings confirm that a winning strategy includes swapping low-quality carbs for higher-quality ones, replacing some saturated fats (like those in red meat) with unsaturated fats (like those in nuts and fish), and reducing calories from carbs over all (fewer snacks and drinks with added sugars and refined grains). An outstanding and popular book to guide healthy eating is Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, by Walter Willett and P.J. Skerrett, from Harvard Health Publishing.

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