A new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has found that Americans are gradually making healthier choices in their eating habits than they have in the past. The “report card” on the American diet, which came out earlier this week, analyzed the diets of 44,000 people and determined that we are eating 3% fewer highly processed foods with added sugars.
“These positive trends are likely to reflect an increased public awareness of the health risks associated with high added sugar and low whole grain consumption,” said Fang Fang Zhang, co-author of the paper and associate professor at Tuft’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
It’s an improvement, albeit a slim one, with definite room for improvement. The report also found that the average American gets 42 per cent of their daily calories came from refined grains, starches and added sugars, and only 9 per cent from fruits and whole grains.
While Zhang credits a rise in public health consciousness with the improvements in reducing processed foods, the study does warn that education plays a huge role in informing people’s dietary choices. “People with less than a high school education or living below the poverty line not only ate a worse diet than those with a higher level of education or income at any given cycle, they also did not improve their diet quality over time,” said Zhang.
Other high risk groups include racial minorities and people over the age of 50. However, nutrition researcher and paper co-author Shilpa Bhupathiraju hopes that this report will provide a starting point for reaching these communities. “Our study gives us insights into where we can improve our diets,” she said, “and which subgroups to target so that we can eliminate disparities in healthy eating.”
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