A new survey shows people are hungry for more information about what they put into their bodies.
The survey of nearly 2,000 consumers, conducted by Healthline from December 2014 through February 2015, showed that most people are concerned about issues such as the impact of eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
About 85 percent said the government needs to conduct more tests on the impact of GMO food products and pesticide contamination in food. Eighty-two percent believe the government should require foods be labeled if they are free of GMOs.
Nutrition expert Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., said that while the survey is great news, Americans aren’t really putting their money where their mouths are.
“It’s wonderful that people are caring about this stuff, but people are eating awful in this country,” Somer told Healthline.
The author of “Eat Your Way to Sexy,” Somer says the vegetable intake Americans get still comes mostly from French fries and other potatoes, or tomatoes in pizza sauce. Iceberg lettuce, which has almost no nutritional value, is another favorite, Somer said.
“Everybody these days is a self-proclaimed nutrition expert, and the vast majority get their information on the Internet, and most of it is inaccurate. There are a lot of wrong places to get information, often because it is skewed,” Somer said. “The correct message is not always sexy.”
She said the truth is we don’t really know what GMOs or pesticides are doing to us, or if buying organic really makes a big difference.
But everyone wants to know all they can about the science behind their supper.
“The types of food we put in our bodies every day makes up a vital part of our health and well being,” said David Kopp, Healthline's executive vice president and general manager for media. “Healthline.com’s survey findings demonstrate that U.S. consumers are really paying attention to the different food options available for themselves or for their families. Diet trends, such as the gluten-free diet or the more recent paleo diet, have picked up quite a bit of attention, but it will be some time before researchers truly understand the short-term and long-term health effects of these diets, genetically modified foods, and organic foods.”
Many Families Cope With Food Allergies, Special Diets
In the meantime, there are plenty of ways we could eat well — we just aren’t, Somer said. “Americans aren’t doing it and it doesn’t matter if there is money in their pockets or not.”
But those who responded to the Healthline survey tell a different story. One third said they have purchased or will purchase organic food for children, with 62 percent saying they do so for health reasons. Eighty-seven percent said they visit two or more food markets each month, including grocery chains (88 percent) wholesale clubs (28 percent), local farmer’s markets or butcher shops (19 percent), and superstores (18 percent).
More than one-third of households (35 percent) said they shop to accommodate a food allergy. Likewise, slightly more than one-third said they are on a special diet that eliminates certain food groups; more than half of said they follow their diet for medical reasons.
Of that one-third of consumers, 38 percent are on a gluten-free diet, 36 percent are on the paleo diet, and 35 percent are on a diet that eliminates dairy.
That said, more than half of the people surveyed (51 percent) say food-related diseases have been over-hyped by the media. Half of people on gluten-free diets admitted they have not been formally diagnosed with either Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
“When they do studies of people who say they are gluten intolerant, the vast majority of them aren’t,” Somer said. “It’s a fad that has credibility, so a lot of people are just jumping on the bandwagon.”
To Eat Healthy, Eat in Technicolor
In the Healthline survey, 44 percent of consumers reported buying organic for at least half of the groceries they bring home, even though more than 70 percent said it means a higher bill in the checkout lane.
If you want to eat better, you don’t have to adhere to a diet that’s popular on social media or in online ads. For example, one way to eat for a healthier you is by filling half of your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, Somer said, and they don’t necessarily have to be organic.
“Eat real. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, 100 percent whole grains, Omega 3 DHAs,” Somer said. “Seventy five percent of the time, eat unprocessed foods. The other 25 percent you can still have those Pop Tarts or cheesecake.”
The colorful fruits and vegetables, Somer said, contain phytonutrients. These nutrients are packed with antioxidants that ward off disease. Omega 3 DHAs found in salmon and other fish are good for both the heart and brain, she added.
“Nutrition isn’t that complicated,” she told Healthline. “Don’t tie yourself up in knots over the latest fad diet, or even a political issue. The healthier you eat, your body will repay you a thousand-fold, possibly with even a smarter brain.”