Survey points to misconceptions around whole grains

by Eric Schroeder
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MINNEAPOLIS — Sixty-one per cent of Americans believe they are eating enough whole grains, although only 5% actually are getting the three full daily servings (at least 48 grams) recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to the General Mills Whole Grain Check-Up released by General Mills, Inc.

The study, which was conducted via telephone by Opinion Research Corp.’s omnibus service, Caravan, sampled 1,010 adults ages 18 and older between Oct. 14-17, 2010. The goal was to better understand American attitudes around whole grains and the gap between the amount of whole grains Americans should be eating and what they are actually consuming.

“With the average person getting a little more than half of a serving of whole grain each day, America’s whole grain gap is a concern,” said Susan Crockett, Ph.D., R.D., vice-president of health and nutrition, and director of the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition at General Mills. “As part of a healthy diet, whole grain can help with diabetes and weight management, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Ready-to-eat cereal is the leading source of whole grain and packs in vitamins, minerals and key essential nutrients — without packing on calories.”

The Whole Grain Check-Up found 92% of Americans know whole grain is important in their diets, and approximately half of respondents said they specifically shop for whole grain products. But the survey also suggests some consumers may be confused about whole grain. For example, only 55% of respondents knew how to correctly identify whole grain on a food label. Additionally, 28% didn’t understand the difference between “whole grain” and “enriched grain.”

The survey also found 81% of respondents associate whole grain with breakfast. But while 46% of consumers think of bread as their primary source of whole grain, in reality, ready-to-eat cereal is the leading whole grain source for Americans. More than one-quarter of all their whole grain comes from ready-to-eat cereals, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The Whole Grain Check-Up survey found taste, convenience and price remain barriers to Americans eating the recommended amount of whole grain, with 35% citing taste as a barrier to getting more whole grain, 27% citing price as a barrier, and 24% identifying lack of convenience as a barrier to consuming more whole grain.

Older Americans tend to believe they are getting enough grain, according to the study. Seventy-one per cent of respondents 55 years old or older believed they are getting enough whole grain, while among 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed, that number dropped to 47%. Results also showed 58% of women believe they get enough whole grain in their diets, compared with 64% of men.

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