Most Americans Now Make Half Their Grains Whole

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In time for Whole Grains Month in September, a new Oldways Whole Grains Council health survey reveals surprising whole grain habits.

Whole Grains Infographic

For years, most people came nowhere close to whole grain recommendations, so it is encouraging to see that many are now benefiting from switching more of the grains they eat to whole grains.

Now here’s some good health news: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are heeding the Dietary Guidelines advice to "make at least half your grains whole,” with the majority of Americans eating more whole grains than they did five years ago.

The Boston-based non-profit Oldways Whole Grains Council (WGC) released these findings and others from the 2015 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey in time for September’s Whole Grains Month.

“For years, most people came nowhere close to whole grain recommendations, so it is encouraging to see that many are now benefiting from switching more of the grains they eat to whole grains,” said Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies, Oldways Whole Grains Council. “The next step is tempting Americans to expand their whole grain palates beyond bread, cereal and brown rice to delicious grains like spelt, farro, amaranth and teff.”

The push toward whole grains comes as studies show that eating whole grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Other benefits include reduced risk of asthma, healthier blood pressure levels, and better weight control.

For the survey, the Oldways Whole Grains Council asked Americans about their whole grain habits and here’s what they found:

Whole grain consumption is up

  • Nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent (64%), have increased whole grain consumption "some" or "a lot" in the last 5 years.
  • Whole grain lovers really love their whole grains. In fact, 2 in 3 respondents who nearly always choose whole grains now have increased their whole grain consumption a great deal compared to 5 years ago.

Choosing whole grains more often

  • Almost one-third of respondents (31%) say they nearly always choose whole grains. Five years ago, just 4 percent would have said this.
  • Another 32 percent choose whole grains about half the time.
  • That means 63 percent are making more than half their grains whole, good news since the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, due out this fall, are expected to continue with this recommendation as they have since 2005.

Whole grains are popular morning fuel

  • Breakfast remains the biggest eating occasion for whole grains, followed by dinner and then lunch:

o On average, 37 percent of daily whole grains are consumed at breakfast, 27 percent at dinner, 22 percent at lunch and just 14 percent as snacks.

  • People eat nearly 30 percent more whole grain breakfast cereal (hot or cold) than refined.

Health messages are getting through

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 (86%) of those who consume whole grains do so for the health benefits.
  • Forty percent (40%) choose whole grains because they enjoy the taste.
  • Cost was named as the leading barrier to eating more whole grains (39%).
  • Availability can also be a barrier (28%) – as many restaurants don’t offer whole grain choices.

Gluten confusion

  • Few fully understand gluten. While more than 1 in 3 identify gluten as a protein and 1 in 5 know it makes dough rise, only 4 percent correctly selected both (and no other options).
  • Twenty-one percent (21%) incorrectly think gluten is in all grains. In fact, gluten-free doesn’t mean grain free – even those following a gluten-free diet can enjoy grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice.
  • 93 percent eat gluten some or all of the time. Of the 7 percent who completely avoid gluten, only 1 in 5 has a medically-diagnosed problem with gluten.

Top 5 Favorite Whole Grain Foods
1. Whole Wheat Bread (31%)
2. Oatmeal (27%)
3. Popcorn (15%)
4. Whole Grain Cold Cereal (15%)
5. Whole Grain Pasta (8%)

Time to discover other whole grains

  • Whole wheat, oats and brown rice are the most popular grains.

o Nine out of 10 have heard of these grains and most have eaten them.

  • Yet, fewer than 1 in 5 has heard of spelt, farro, amaranth, Kamut®, or teff.

The Whole Grain Stamp is known and trusted

  • Forty-nine percent (49%) of people are aware of the Whole Grain Stamp.
  • Eight out of 10 (82%) trust the Whole Grain Stamp to accurately state a product’s whole grain content.
  • Seventy-nine percent (79%) say the Whole Grain Stamp would make them more likely to buy a product; about half of these would also consider sugar, sodium and other product factors.
  • About half (51%) say they would question a product’s claims about whole grains if they did not see the Whole Grain Stamp.

Whole Grains Month in September is the perfect time to explore lesser known grain options (or old favorites!) and “Share the Goodness” of delicious whole grains in person – and online. To celebrate Whole Grains Month, WGC is launching a “Share the Goodness of Whole Grains” Instagram photo contest, running September 1-30, 2015. To enter, follow the Whole Grains Council on Instagram (@Whole_Grains_Council) then upload a photo with a description telling how you shared your whole grain goodies with others using the hashtag #ShareWholeGrains.

About Oldways and the Whole Grains Council
Oldways is a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization, with a mission to guide people to good health through heritage, using practical and positive programs grounded in science and tradition. Oldways’ Whole Grains Council (WGC) has been working since 2003 to increase consumption of whole grains for better health, and in 2005 introduced the Whole Grain Stamp, now used on more than 10,000 products in 44 countries. The WGC's many initiatives help consumers to find whole grain foods and understand their health benefits; help manufacturers and restaurants to create delicious whole grain foods; and help the media to write accurate, compelling stories about whole grains. You can learn more about both at http://www.oldwayspt.org and http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org.

The Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey was commissioned by Oldways Whole Grains Council, and was conducted by SSI, Inc. The survey was administered online and consisted of a random sample of 1,510 U.S. adults, with a large majority responsible for household food purchases. Survey was completed between July 27, 2015, and August 3, 2015. Data are within 1%-2% of national census targets for age, gender and income.

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Kyle Potvin
Oldways
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