The guidelines are published every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to offering guidance to the public and the nutrition community, the guidelines establish the scientific and policy basis for all federal nutrition programs. The guidelines have been published since 1980.
Refined grains come under criticism in the guidelines from the outset of the report. In an introductory section offering an overview, the guidelines feature “two overarching concepts” recommended, including maintaining calorie balance over time and focusing on intake of nutrient dense foods and beverages.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the 2010 version both identified foods and food components that are over-consumed. In 2005, the DGAs highlighted saturated fats, trans fatty acids, cholesterol, added sugars, salt and alcohol. The 2010 version of foods and food components to reduce is basically the same, with “solid fats” encompassing both saturated fats and trans fatty acids, sodium substituted for salt and refined grains added to the list.
Major sources of refined grains in the diets of Americans are yeast breads (26% of total refined grain intake), pizza (11%), grain-based desserts (10%), and tortillas, burritos and tacos (8%), according the report.
The 2010 DGA recommended that refined grains be replaced with products made with whole grains so that at least half of all grains eaten are whole grains.
“Americans currently consume too much sodium and too many calories from solid fats, added sugars and refined grains,” the DGA report said. “These replace nutrient-dense foods and beverage and make it difficult for people to achieve recommended nutrient intake while controlling calorie and sodium intake. A healthy eating pattern limits intake of sodium, solid fats, added sugars and refined grains and emphasizes nutrient-dense foods and beverages — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds.”
Last year, grain-based foods organizations objected to the use of the term “refined,” noting that the vast majority of non-whole grains were enriched. The group warned that use of the term “refined” would cause confusion. The group also objected to the manner in which the committee lumped flour in a combination with added sugars and fats even though many grain-based foods are low in added sugars and solid fats.