Grain-free cookbooks and celebrities may cause a stir, but ask Americans what they really think is healthy, and you might be pleasantly surprised. Each year, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) surveys Americans on their attitudes towards health and nutrition. This year, whole grains are way up the list of components considered to be healthful by consumers (84%), following only vitamin D (88%) and ﬁber (87%). In fact, the percentage of people recognizing whole grains as healthful is signiﬁcantly higher than last year.
Acting on this knowledge, more than 65% of consumers report that they are eating more foods with whole grains compared to years past. This isn’t hard to do, as quinoa salads and granola parfaits are seemingly around every corner. But while much attention has been given to health conscious millennials, IFIC ﬁnds that older adults (ages 50-80) in particular are more likely to eat more foods with whole grains than 18-49 year olds (70% vs. 62%).
Although foodies tout the ﬂavors and textures of whole grains, IFIC ﬁnds that American health culture is preoccupied with weight loss. And given the prevalence of diet-related disease in our country, the enthusiasm is not entirely unwarranted. However, most people surveyed (60%) could not name a single food or nutrient associated with weight loss, which could explain why weight is such a struggle for many people across the country. Of course, no one food is a dietary savior or villain. But people who consistently eat balanced diets with whole grains tend to weigh less than people who don’t. In fact, some research suggests that whole grains actually help your body burn more calories, without exercising more.
Following weight loss/weight management, IFIC survey respondents cite heart health as a top motivator for eating healthier. But like a deer in the headlights, Americans are frozen with indecision not knowing what to eat, as half of respondents (49%) could not name a food or nutrient associated with heart health. Again, whole grains may help oﬀer some protection in this department. Researchers have found that increasing whole grain intake by about 3 servings per day is linked with a 19-22% lower risk of heart disease.
To better understand the wide range of beneﬁts from eating more whole grain foods, check out our new handout, below. You can even print it and stick it on the fridge, for a daily reminder as to why to make more of your grains whole.
Kelly Toups, Program Director, Whole Grains Council; Oldways Staﬀ RD