donation
To request Mental Health
Services or to access Mental
Health Crisis Services Call:
1-800-375-4357

Wellness and Personal Development
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
AHA News: Eating Mindfully Through the Holidays – and All YearProtect Yourself From Frigid-Weather EmergenciesNot Getting Enough Shut-Eye? You Have Plenty of Company'Meatless Monday' Can Help Change Diets for GoodPlants Will Not Boost Your Home's Air Quality: StudyHealth Tip: Ridesharing SafetyHealth Tip: Autumn Driving SafetyTV Binges, Video Games, Books and Sports Taking Toll on SleepSurvey Shows Americans Feel StressedDon't Get Along With Family? Check Your HealthHow to Head Off Holiday Weight GainClimate Change a 'Threat to Human Well-Being,' Scientists SayHealth Tip: Bundle Up on Cold, Windy DaysGet Healthier With a Mental ResetAre You Lonely? Your Tweets Offer Important Clues, Experts SayDaylight Saving Time Bad for Health, Experts ClaimMore Reasons Why You Must Manage Your StressWith Time Change, Use That Extra Hour for SleepAHA News: Your Neighborhood's Walkability May Be A Trick-Or-Treat For Your Heart All YearToo Little Time to Exercise? Survey Suggests OtherwiseAlmost Half of Americans Have Been Sleepy Behind the WheelHealth Tip: The 'Wall Test' For Good PostureCould Screens' Blue Light Make You Old Before Your Time?Health Tip: Prioritizing Your WellnessThe Wellness Boost of a Purposeful LifeHealth Tip: Planning a Stress-Reducing VacationWhy Maintaining a Healthy Weight Is Important in AdulthoodAHA News: The Road to Better Exercise Might Be in Your PlaylistAre You Eating More Calories Than You Think?How Fast You Walk Might Show How Fast You're AgingTying the Knot Is Tied to Longer Life Span, New Data Shows'Smartphone Slouching' More Serious Than It SoundsAHA News: What's Your Sense of Purpose? The Answer May Affect Your HealthYour Furry Best Friend Might Extend Your LifeWhen Income Drops, Young Adults' Brains May SufferSeaside Living Soothes the Mind of Rich and Poor AlikeAHA News: Make Neighborhoods Green for Heart Health? The Idea Is Taking RootHow to Wait Out a Blue MoodClose Friendships Boost Your Self-Esteem, and Vice Versa: StudyEvidence Builds That Optimism Might Lengthen Your LifeMaking Lifestyle Changes You Can Live WithAmericans Are Still Eating Too Many 'Bad' CarbsSecond Thoughts About That Tattoo? Here's Some AdviceLow Vitamin D Levels, Shorter Life?Just 2 Weeks on the Couch Starts to Damage Your BodyHealth Tip: Taking a Mental Health DayAre You Just a Worrywart or Is It Something More?Online Learning: What's in It for You?10 Quick Tips for a Healthier, Safer LifeHow to Keep Your Bones Strong and Prevent Fractures
LinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Smoking
Anger Management
Stress Reduction and Management
Weight Loss

Americans Are Still Eating Too Many 'Bad' Carbs

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Sep 24th 2019

new article illustration

TUESDAY, Sept. 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Decades into the obesity epidemic, Americans are still eating far too much sugar, starch and saturated fat, a new report claims.

Since 1999, Americans have cut down a bit on "low-quality" carbs, like heavily processed grains and snack foods with added sugar. But that amounts to only a 3% drop overall, the researchers found.

And Americans have made little headway in boosting their intake of "high-quality" carbohydrates -- like beans, fiber-rich whole grains, fruit and vegetables other than potatoes: Consumption rose by only 1% between 1999 and 2016.

Meanwhile, total fat intake rose by the same amount, but half was from saturated fat -- which comes mainly from meat and full-fat dairy products. Americans today typically get 12% of their daily calories from saturated fat, the study found. That's above the 10% recommended limit.

The study cannot answer any "why" questions, according to senior researcher Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, an associate professor at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, in Boston.

But Americans' reliance on processed foods and take-out is a likely culprit.

"Our study shows that Americans are eating a lot of low-quality carbohydrates from refined grains and added sugars -- 42 percent [of daily calories]," Zhang said.

"That's a lot of calories without many nutrients," she added. "It's reasonable to say that's partially related to convenience foods."

The findings, reported in the Sept. 24 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on a long-running government nutrition survey. Between 1999 and 2016, nearly 44,000 Americans were interviewed about their eating habits.

Over those years, Zhang's team found, people reduced their total carb intake from an average of 52.5% of daily calories, to 50.5%. At the same time, protein and fat intake inched up.

But there was not much improvement in the national appetite for healthy carbs. And consumption of plant proteins -- like nuts and beans -- barely budged, from about 5.4% of calories, to 5.8%, the findings showed.

On balance, Americans still seem to love their meat and potatoes.

Linda Van Horn, who heads the nutrition division at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, co-authored an editorial published with the study.

She agreed that convenience is a powerful force in the national diet, as is advertising.

"Access to snacks, desserts, sugary beverages, pizza, sandwiches and other grab-and-go foods is far greater and more highly marketed than fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, and unsalted nuts and seeds," Van Horn said.

So the responsibility for eating healthy goes beyond an individual's "will," Zhang said -- particularly since disadvantaged Americans still have poorer diets than those who are wealthier and more educated.

For example, the study found that people living below the poverty line trimmed their intake of low-quality carbs by around 2%, versus nearly 4% among higher-income people.

That points to a need to make healthier choices more affordable and accessible, according to Zhang.

For now, she pointed to simple changes people can try: "Mind the quality of your carbohydrates. Instead of French fries, go for a piece of fruit. Instead of white bread, go for whole-grain bread with nuts or seeds. Read nutrition labels for added sugars, and select products with more fiber and less sugar."

Van Horn made another point: Healthy eating is not only about weight control; it can help people avoid chronic disease and disability, and the drugs used to treat those conditions.

Ideally, she noted, everyone should pay attention to diet from the beginning -- with pregnant women eating healthfully and parents passing good habits onto their kids.

"Establishing the recommended dietary patterns and lifestyle behaviors early in life is the very best strategy to preserve healthy growth and development in our kids -- and reverse the escalating obesity epidemic in our country," Van Horn said.

More information

The Harvard School of Public Health has advice on healthy eating.