Whole grains and nuts
Consumption of whole grains, nuts and whole fruit increased between 1999 and 2012.

BOSTON — Perhaps Americans are eating better. Consumption of whole grains, nuts and whole fruit all increased between 1999 and 2012 while consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages decreased, according to a study appearing June 21 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Researchers from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston used 24-hour dietary recalls in nationally representative samples that included 39,932 U.S. adults age 20 or older from seven National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) cycles.

Consumption of whole grains increased by 0.43 servings per person per day from 1999-2000 to 2011-12. Other increases were seen for nuts or seeds (0.25 servings) and whole fruit (0.15 servings). Consumption fell for sugar-sweetened beverages (0.49 servings) and 100% fruit juice (0.11 servings).

No significant trend was observed for other diet components, including total fruits and vegetables, processed meat, saturated fat, or sodium.

The estimated percentage of U.S. adults with poor diets declined to 46% from 56%. The percentage with ideal diets moved up to 1.5% from 0.7%. The researchers found disparities in diet quality by race/ethnicity, education and income level. For example, the estimated percentage of non-Hispanic white adults with a poor diet fell to 43% from 54%, but similar improvements were not seen for non-Hispanic black or Mexican American adults.

A grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute supported the research.