Nutrition Facts & Statistics 2024 | Surprising Facts & Data

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Diet, exercise, and weight are inextricably linked. In previous articles we presented some raw data on supplements, diet failures, fad diets, and even weight loss in general. In this piece, we’ll take a deeper dive into the science behind eating habits, recommendations, and how they affect overall weight, fitness, and health. 

Because of the prevalence and importance of Fat and Sugar in our diets and weight loss plans, I’ve included only some general statistics for them, here. For detailed information, please read the independent articles we’ve dedicated to those subjects.

General Statistics

A lot of controversy has been stirred up about the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for various nutrients. We’ll discuss those later, but for now, here are some general tips.

  • Whether counting calories is good or bad, we’ll leave to experts. But calories themselves are a simple energy equation–how much raw energy the body gets per gram of a nutrient:
9 calories per fat gram
4 calories per carbohydrate gram
4 calories per protein gram 
7 calories per gram of alcohol
  • 5% or less is considered “low.” When looking for “low-sodium,” or “low-fat,” this is the number you should be looking for.
  • 20% or more is “high,” in terms of “high-fiber,” or “high-protein.” Be careful, because this is also the threshold for a “high-fat” food to beware of. [1]
  • Dietary guidelines, however, still call for 10% of calories coming from saturated fat. [2]

Before we get into nutrient specific statistics, some headlines can be made straight from the following macro-stats. All of these deaths were directly correlated to diet and nutrition, either eating too much or too little of something.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed over 700,000 deaths from stroke, diabetes, and heart conditions. They found that:

  • 67,914 deaths were from type-II diabetes.
  • 66,508 (9.5%) resulted from high sodium.
  • 59,374 (8.5%) were from too few nuts and seeds.
  • 57,766 (8.2%) came by way of high-processed meats.
  • 54,626 (7.8%) resulted in too few Omega-3s.
  • 53, 410 (7.6%) deaths were caused by low vegetable intake.
  • And 52,547 (7.5%) were the result of low fruit consumption. [3]

These mortality figures can be compared with the following report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention [4], juxtaposed against Gallup Survey responses. [5]

  • Only 12.3% of Americans get enough fruit daily (CDC).
  • Only 10% get enough vegetable servings (CDC).
  • These recommended amounts are only 1.5-2 cups of fruit, and 2-3 cups of vegetables (CDC).
  • But 93% of people claim to include Vegetables, and 90% claim to include fruit in their daily diet (Gallup).

Trends Over Time

Tracking how well Americans follow dietary guidelines can give us a picture of how well we’re managing our nutrition through food.

  • 56% of Americans adhered to Dietary Guidelines in 2005-2006.
  • 57% in 2007-08.
  • 59% in 2009-10.
  • 60% in 2011-12.
  • 59% since 2013. [6]

Fats

Fats have been the boogeymen of diets and weight loss for decades, generations, even. But the fact is that fat is not necessarily correlated to weight gain or better health. Here are some of the first items from our Dietary Fats Statistics page:

  • 70-75% of adults’ diet is more than 10% saturated fat. [7]
  • The CDC finds that the average man’s total calories in a day are 35.6% fat, 36.1% for women.
  • In surveys, however, people answer differently, with 47% saying they avoid fat [8] in their diet.
  • Another set of figures put the national average at 11-12% of calorie intake from fat; this amalgamates all intake. [9]

Sugars

Added Sugar and Corn-derived sugars are emerging as a critical threat to overall health. Here is an overview of what’s in our main Sugar Stats article:

  • Americans eat 20 teaspoons, or 100 grams of sugar every day. [10]
  • The American Heart Association, however, recommends as little as 45 grams of sugar for men, and 30 for women.
  • Other estimates put the US consumption of sugar at 300% more than healthy levels. [11]

Carbohydrates (Other than Sugar)

Many millions of people have tried a fad diet that calls for the limiting of all carbohydrates. This may have weight-loss benefits, but these diets also come with significant health risks.

  • The CDC has found that 45.9% of mens and 47.4% of womens calories are from carbohydrates.
  • 32% higher risk of death is associated with the lowest of carbohydrate intakes [12]. This included:
    • 51% higher risk of heart disease.
    • 50% higher risk of cerebrovascular disease (stroke-related).
    • And 35% higher risk of cancer.
  • For these reasons, experts recommend that three-quarters of calories should come from fiber-rich carbohydrates. [13]
  • These health benefits are escaping many people; 14% of respondents say they avoid all grains. [14]
  • In fact, 12% of all people don’t eat gluten because they “feel healthier,” and;
  • 7% of all US residents don’t eat gluten for “weight loss.” [15]

Protein

Protein is the primary source of all muscle building amino-acids. Additionally, it can be burned for energy, replacing potentially dangerous sugars and fats in a healthy diet. There are health concerns, however, as many animal and vegetable protein food sources also come with fat and sodium.

  • 10-35% of calories should come from protein.
    • For a 2,000 calorie diet, that is as high as 700 calories, or 175 grams. [16]
  • The average intake for men in America is 16% of total calories, 15.% for women.
  • Past age 40, muscle decreases by 30-50%. [17]
  • Protein should be consumed two-three times per day.
  • Protein metabolization does plateau. More isn’t better.
  • Despite the environmental concerns over animal protein, and the fact that more is not better, Americans consume roughly 90% more protein than they need. [18]
  • Many people are on high-protein diets, usually as a side effect of trying to eat less carbohydrates or fats. Some data surrounding the high-protein trend has also indicated a plant-based trend.
    • 20% of people are eating more seafood and poultry compared to red meat.
    • 19% of people are eating more plant-based protein.

Given that there is some controversy over plant-based proteins, due to bioavailability of the amino acids themselves, here are the scientifically proven best plant-based sources:

  • Dried seaweed.
  • Roasted soybeans.
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds.
  • Roasted peanuts, and;
  • Cook lentils.

Plant-based proteins are also associated with environmental benefits and appetite control. [19]

Fiber

Fiber is as undervalued a benefit to total health as sodium is an overlooked negative agent. Study after study has linked high-fiber diets with better health outcomes.

  • In meta-analysis of studies, fiber is positively associated with weight gain prevention [20]; more fiber means less weight.
  • Average intake is 15g/day, but recommended intake is as high as 25 grams. [21]
  • Meeting adequate fiber intake in one study resulted in over 10% loss of body weight at 6 months. [22]
  • But only 7% of Americans are meeting fiber intake values.
  • But only 7% of Americans are meeting fiber intake values.This has resulted in increases in chronic diseases. [23]
  • Fad diets are partially to blame for fiber deficiencies, with the focus on cutting carbs also cutting out fibers. [24]

Sodium

Some people call sodium the “silent killer,” because so many health advocates and individual consumers are preoccupied with fat and sugar. The following statistics can highlight the danger of ignoring the salt problem.

  • Sodium contributes to 500,000 deaths per year.
  • 11 million cases of high blood pressure can be attributed to high sodium.
  • $18 Billion could be saved annually by reducing sodium intake to 2,300 mg/day. [25]
  • Despite what the raw consumption says, as with fat and sugar, people appear to be lying to survey takers; 39% of people claim to avoid salt in their diet.

Most people associate sodium with their salt shaker, and that by using that less they will get a “low-sodium” diet. But researchers warn that “hidden sodium” in prepared foods can easily put us over the daily allowance. For instance, salt does not need to be listed on mayonnaise and other condiments. [26]

  • For adults, sodium should be below 2,300 mg per day.
  • Nearly every fast food item contains over 10% of our daily sodium.
    • Many contain more than 40%.
  • Canned soups also between 20% and 48% of our daily sodium.

Where Else to Be Careful

The following is a sampling of common foods with surprisingly high sodium. [27]

Common Food Item

Milligrams

% of RDA

“Thick” milkshake

297

13%

Canned tomato juice (1 cup)

877

38%

Cheese sauce (1 cup)

1,198

52%

Feta cheese (1 oz)

316

13.7%

American Cheese (1 oz)

405

17.6%

Tuna Salad (1 cup)

824

35.8%

Bagel (3 ½ inch)

379

16.4%

Biscuit (2 ½ inch)

348

15.13%

Stuffing

543

23.61%

Cheerios

284

12.35%

Kellog’s Corn Flakes

298

10.87%

Kellog’s Special K

250

10.87%

Pasta & Meatballs (canned, 1 cup)

1,053

45.78%

Rolls (soft)

41

10.48%

Rolls (hard)

310

13.48%

Snack Pretzels

1,029

44.74%

Waffles (frozen)

260

11.30%

Wheat Flour (self-rising)

1,588

69.04%

Beans (canned)

1,008

43.83%

Chickpeas (canned)

718

31.22%

Lima Beans (canned)

810

35.22%

Beans (refried, canned)

753

32.74%

Vitamins

As we’ll see in the Supplements section, many Americans are aware of their vitamin deficiencies, but that hasn’t produced 100% remedial action. Here’s a snapshot of the stats behind some of the common vitamins.

Vitamin A

  • 65-80% of vitamin A in the US comes from additives to food.
  • The body absorbs between 75-100% of retinal from food, 10-30% of beta-carotene (the two most common forms of vitamin A).
  • The recommended amounts of vitamin A are: 900 mcg for men, 700 mcg for women.
  • However, average consumption is: 682 mcg for men, and 616 mcg for women.
  • Additionally, up to 40% of the US uses some form of supplement containing vitamin A. [28]

Vitamin C

  • Recommended consumption is only 90 mg for men, 75 mg for women daily.
  • Smokers require 35mg more per day than nonsmokers.
  • Intake is much higher than needed: 105.2 mg/day for men, 83.6 mg/day for women.
  • Additionally, 35% of adults take a vitamin C supplement.
  • Studies have proven there is no blood or urinary difference in vitamin C levels after supplementation. [29]

Vitamin D

  • Deficiency can lead to: Bone loss, fractures in bones, mortality or infections 
  • 5.9% of Americans have “severe vitamin D deficiency.”
  • Some estimates of total deficiency in America range as high as 24%.
  • Recommended amounts are 15 mcg, for all ages and genders.
  • Average intakes, however, are only 5.1 mcg/day for men and 4.2 mcg/day for women.
  • Some 28% of Americans take a supplement for Vitamin D. [30]

Minerals

Calcium

  • 70% of American calcium intake is from milk products.
  • Majority of Americans, though, aren’t getting enough. [31]
  • Recommended consumption is 1,000 mg/day for all adults and age ranges, however;
    • Women over 50 should increase this to 1,200 mg/day.
  • 49% of children 4-18 don’t get enough calcium.
  • Average intakes for adult men is 1,083 mg, but only 842 mg for women.
  • 22% of men and 32% of women take a calcium supplement. [32]

Iron

  • Adolescents 14-18 years old need 11 mg/day for males, 15 mg/day for females.
  • Women continue needing more iron into adulthood, at 18 mg/day, compared to only 8 mg/day for men.
  • 14-18% of adults use iron supplements, resulting in the majority of adults getting enough of this mineral. [33]

Potassium

  • Average intake for Americans is between 2,290 and 3,026 mg/day, but;
  • Recommended intake is 4,700 mg. [34]

Supplements

It can seem as if the established scientific community has a bias against dietary supplements, and that may be the case for certain individuals. The reasons can range from doctors not wanting patients to become enamored of fad diets and supplement trends to simple prejudice. But even the scientists behind our federal nutrition regulation have recognized the need for some people to take supplements or vitamins.

  • 20% of people get fiber from supplements.
  • 48% use supplements for Omega-3s.
  • 20%+ for Choline.
  • 38% for Calcium.
  • 50% of people rely on supplements for their Probiotics.
  • 55% of people do the same for their Vitamin D, and;
  • Over 40% use supplements for their Prebiotics.

Many people are using supplements for macronutrients, as well. For protein supplements, experts recommend:

200 or few calories per serving.

2 grams or less of any fat.

5 grams of sugar, or lower[35]

Alcohol

  • One drink per day for women, two for men is best. [36]
  • 66% of adults have at least one alcoholic beverage a month.

Attitudes Surrounding Nutrition

We’ve already seen some of the micro-level discrepancies between what people actually consume versus what they answer to in a survey. The following statistics can give us nuanced insights into people’s attitudes, which may be causing these discrepancies. [37]

  • Three out of Four Americans think they are making healthy food choices.
  • “Taste” however, is the largest motivator of choices, with 82% of consumers making their decisions based on flavor.
  • Only 58% make choices based on health.
  • 41% of people claim to know the Dietary Guidelines we’ve been discussing throughout this article.
  • 22% of people think their weight gain comes from Sugars, 20% from all carbs, 14% from fats.
  • 28% of people think all calories contribute to weight gain equally.
  • 12% say they don’t know.
  • The largest percentage of people (~15%) feel that portion size is the key to health; this beats out all other nutrition-related issues.
  • 73% of Americans feel confident they can choose healthy foods.
  • Just under 60% of adults feel that knowledge of Dietary Guidelines helps them make healthy choices.
  • Meanwhile, 66% of adults are interested in learning more about nutrition, specifically related to immune health.

Behavior Trends

Many of these data are from surveys; we can contrast people’s answers about following diets and nutrition guidelines against the empirical data surrounding malnutrition and obesity. [38]

  • Roughly 40% of Americans claim to follow their diets.
  • 20% claim to “actively seek out healthy foods”, while 60% claim to try.
  • 20% of adults actively seek health benefits from their foods.
  • 68% find identifying healthy foods easy.

Looking at people’s purchasing trends also gives us an idea of how they’re trying to meet their nutrition goals. (Consumers may try to get their intake through a combination of purchases, as with fiber.)

  • Over 90% of people try to get their fiber through food; another 20% use supplements.
  • 70% of people get their Omega-3s through food; 45% through supplements.
  • Over 65% of people try to get their Calcium through food; another 38% use supplements.

References

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About the Author

Sam is a passionate health and fitness enthusiast who has been interested in supplements, fitness, and wellness for over 10 years. He is the founder of Great Green Wall - the health and wellness brand and has completed multiple fitness certificates, including personal training and nutrition certifications. Sam has been working as a personal trainer for the past three years and is dedicated to helping his clients achieve their fitness goals and lead healthier lifestyles. He believes that a healthy lifestyle is crucial to a happy and fulfilling life and is committed to sharing his knowledge and passion with others.

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