WASHINGTON — Maybe the Atkins Diet started a real revolution. Turns out in the United States, bread consumption is much lower than you might expect. Contrary to popular belief, foods made from grain — such as bread, tortillas, and breakfast cereal — represent less than 15% of all calories in Americans’ diets. However, Americans are getting a disproportionate amount of their healthy nutrients from grains.
Researchers from the consulting firm Nutritional Strategies dove into what Americans eat and what they don’t eat to identify possible shortfall nutrients, that is, nutrients that are important for the overall health of individuals, yet are being under-consumed en masse. Shortfall nutrients can cause health problems on a national scale. The study attempted to find the food sources and nutrients being consumed by American adults.
The authors analyzed data from more than 10,000 dietary surveys collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from adults over the age of 19, showing what participants ate over a 24-hour period. Consumption of grains was recorded and categorized by product type, such as breads, rolls, cereals, sweet bakery product, among others. They also looked at how these foods contributed to participants total nutritional intake.
They found that Americans should reconsider the removal of bread products from their diets. That’s because participants were getting larger amounts of shortfall nutrients compared to the little bit of grains they were consuming.
“These data show that grain foods are the foods we love that love us back – finally, we can enjoy bread again,” says study co-author Yanni Papanikolaou, vice president at Nutritional Strategies, Inc., in a press release. “The nutrient contribution of all whole and refined grain food products, including breads, rolls and tortillas and ready-to-eat cereals, can play a key role in helping American adults meet recommendations for under-consumed nutrients and nutrients of public health concern.”
Papanikolaou and his team found that grain foods, while contributing less than 15% of Americans’ overall caloric energy, contributes 20% of Americans’ consumption of three shortfall ingredients: dietary fiber, folate, and iron. Grains also contribute more than 10% of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin A. They also found breads, rolls, tortillas, and ready-to-eat cereals are meaningful contributors of niacin, zinc, thiamin, iron, folate, and dietary fiber in adult American diets.
“We all know that The Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming half of our grains as whole grains,” Papanikolaou continues, “but refined, enriched grains, including breads, rolls, cooked and ready-to-eat cereals also can provide meaningful contributions to the diet of all Americans. So, there is no need to eliminate these from your diet.”
Another study published last year showed similar results when examining the diets of children aged 2-18.
The full study was published in the journal Nutrients.