Americans deserve an additional serving of whole grains in their diet
Since grains are the cornerstone of a healthful, plant-based diet, and the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are the bedrock for nutrition policy in the U.S., the baking industry is well-positioned to make powerful, positive changes for the health of America’s families.
Therefore, the American Bakers Association (ABA), as leader of the Grain Chain, made the bold, science-backed recommendation that Americans add an additional daily serving of whole grain to their diet. The resources needed to back this aggressive stance on behalf of our members are critical to the recommendation’s success.
For months, a nutritional expert panel has culled over thousands of pages of published research, to help the industry tell one of our key stories: The baking industry’s products support positive health for Americans.
The health benefits of enriched and whole grains are numerous and consistently positive. Yet Americans continue to under-consume whole grains. We believe adding an additional serving of whole grains will bolster educational information and messaging for consumers around the nutritional benefits of higher whole-grain consumption.
From the recommendations the ABA-led Grain Chain made to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC):
- Total grain consumption, both refined (enriched) and whole grains, is associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality and incidence of type 2 diabetes, and not associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke or cancer
- Since folic acid fortification became required in 1998, the prevalence of babies born with neural tube defects has decreased by 35 percent in the U.S., leading the CDC to name folic acid fortification one of the top 10 public health achievements of the first decade of the 21st century
This will be the first time that the DGAC will develop nutrition recommendations for infants ages birth to 24 months (B-24 age group).
The Grain Chain provided the DGAC newly published, first-ever infant-centered research examining grain food consumption in American infants and toddlers aged six to 23 months, based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 2001–2016.
The study, published in the November 24, 2019 issue of Nutrients, concludes that eliminating or reducing grain foods in the diets of American infants and toddlers 6-23 months old may have unintended nutrient/food group and diet quality consequences. From the study:
- Grain food consumers have higher daily intakes of protein and dietary fiber, as well as fruits and vegetables, vs. non-consumers
- Grain food consumers have higher daily calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc intake than non-consumers, and infant grain consumers have higher daily folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, choline, B12, and B6 intake
- Consumers of bread, rolls, and tortillas consume about 54 percent more whole grains versus non-consumers of bread, rolls, and tortillas—and have better diet qualities as measured by USDA’s Healthy Eating Index (2015)
The submitted comments can be found at www.americanbakers.org.
Published in the July 2019 issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, recent analysis from USDA-ERS provides valuable insight into the potential impact of federal nutrition policy on consumer behavior—in this case, involving children and school meals. The study concluded that from 1994 to 2014, the number of students consuming whole grain increased from one in four to one in two students. This shows that federal policy can affect consumer behavior.
Since Americans continue to under-consume whole grains, the recommendation of an additional whole grain serving, while maintaining the current recommendation of three servings of enriched grains, could provide new momentum to whole-grain consumption in the U.S. Moving forward, bakers and suppliers need to think about how to best highlight grain’s benefits in their marketing efforts.