How do Americans perceive satisfying nutritional needs?

Published On: Jan 15 2014 04:27:05 PM EST
Updated On: Jan 29 2014 12:12:12 PM EST

iStock / gvictoria

(NewsUSA) - Although consumers say they are at least somewhat knowledgeable about nutrition, new research from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) shows several wide gaps between American's perception of their nutrient intakes and reality..

"While there is some disparity between perceived nutrient adequacy and actual nutrient intake, it is notable that consumers recognize the benefits their food can offer," says Sarah Romotsky, registered dietitian and associate director of health and wellness at the IFIC Foundation. "Indeed, health-promoting foods and food components, like blueberries, yogurt, fish, milk and fortified breads and breakfast cereals, play an important role in meeting nutrient needs and improving overall health."

According to the 2013 IFIC Functional Foods Consumer survey, however, the majority of respondents (almost 70 percent) believe they fall short of meeting "all or nearly all" of their nutritional needs.

What's more, a comparison of the survey's findings and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data shows gaps between how many believe their intakes are adequate versus recommended daily intakes or nutrient intake recommendations (Dietary Reference Intakes from the Institute of Medicine). For nutrients such as vitamin D (68 percent perception vs. 32 percent consumption), potassium (61 percent vs. less than 3 percent) and fiber (67 percent vs. 5 percent), the discrepancy between perception and reality is glaring.

The high percentage of consumers who are meeting their needs for B vitamins may be a testament to how fortification can help consumers meet their nutrient needs.

"Breads, rice and cereals, which are often fortified with B Vitamins, may be helping consumers meet their B vitamin needs, without the consumer realizing the added value," says Romotsky.

However, there are still gaps in knowledge and consumption of a variety of other beneficial components, such as omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, flavonoids and zeaxanthin.

The good news, though, according to the survey, is that consumer interest in learning more about foods with benefits beyond basic nutrition remains high. Almost nine in 10 Americans say they are interested in learning more about foods that have health benefits beyond basic nutrition, but cited barriers such as price.

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