American Diets Still Below Par Says LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  7/29/2005 3:05:32 AM

Look for “whole grain” on the label to select the most nutritious bread. Other breads are made from refined grain, which lack certain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

News You Can Use For August 2005

"Most people do not consume enough fruits and vegetables," says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. Consuming fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as stroke, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancers of the pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, stomach and colon-rectum.

The nutritionist explains that fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring chemicals called phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants to prevent breakdown of cell membranes and prevent disease. Fruits and vegetables also contain vitamins and minerals that help prevent disease.

Fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains can reduce risk of coronary heart disease and other chronic diseases. Milk and milk products can reduce risk of low bone mass throughout the life cycle. Consuming adequate milk products is especially important for children and adolescents who are building their peak bone mass.

Whole grains consist of the entire grain seed or kernel, including bran, germ and endosperm and provide fiber and other nutrients. The first ingredient listed on products should be "whole" or "whole-grain."

"You can’t tell a whole-grain product by its color," Reames says, adding, "It’s important to read labels to find out if a product is whole grain."

Refined grains are grains in which most of the bran and some of the germ are removed. Nutrients lost during refining include dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, lignans, phytoestrogens, phenolic compounds and phytic acid. Most refined grains are enriched with folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron.

Reames offers these tips for eating enough vegetables, fruits, grains and milk:

• Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs.

• Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables and other vegetables) several times a week.

• Consume three or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.

• Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.

For children and adolescents, Reames recommends those age groups consume whole-grain products often. At least half the grains should be whole grains. Children 2 to 8 years should consume 2 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products. Children 9 years of age and older should consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.

The USDA’s recommended number of food group servings based on calorie needs of 2,000 calories a day include: fruits – 2 cups (4 servings); vegetables – 2.5 cups (5 servings); dark green vegetables – 3 cups/week; orange vegetables – 2 cups/week; legumes (dry beans) – 3 cups/week; starchy vegetables – 3 cups/week; other vegetables – 6 1/2 cups/week; grain group – 6 ounce-equivalents; whole grains – 3 or more ounce-equivalents; and other grains – 3 ounce-equivalents.

A 1 ounce-equivalent equals 1 slice bread, 1 cup dry cereal or 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal. Three servings of whole grains may be difficult for younger children to achieve. Reames recommends increasing whole grains in their diets as they grow.

The USDA also recommends 3 cups from the milk group. Milk equivalents equal 1 cup low-fat/fat free milk, 1 1/2 ounces low-fat or fat-free natural cheese or 2 ounces low-fat or fat-free processed cheese.

For additional information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, contact the Extension agent in your parish. For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu

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