Dietary Guidelines: General Mills on Whole Grain Importance

The General Mills Whole Grain Check-up, reveals 61 percent of Americans believe they get enough whole grain in their diet. In reality, only 5 percent of Americans get the three full daily servings (at least 48 grams) recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

General Mills conducted the study to better understand American attitudes around whole grain and the gap between the amount of whole grain Americans should be eating and what they are actually consuming.

“With the average person getting a little more than half of a serving of whole grain each day, America’s whole grain gap is a concern,” said Susan Crockett, Ph. D, RD, FADA, vice president, Health and Nutrition, and director of the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition at General Mills. “As part of a healthy diet, whole grain can help with diabetes and weight management, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Ready-to-eat cereal is the leading source of whole grain and packs in vitamins, minerals and key essential nutrients – without packing on calories.”

Since 2005, General Mills has been committed to whole grain by guaranteeing every Big G cereal contains at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving (at least 48 grams recommended daily). Today, General Mills Big G Cereals are America’s number one source of whole grain at breakfast, providing America with more whole grain at breakfast than any other breakfast food from any other manufacturer.

“General Mills cereals can be part of the solution to close the whole grain gap, and we believe it has never been easier to get the whole grain you want without sacrificing taste,” said Jeff Harmening, president of General Mills Big G cereal division. “General Mills was the first, and remains the only, leading cereal company to guarantee whole grain in its entire line of Big G cereals, with the brands you know and love, including Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Fiber One and Total.”

With 61 percent of Americans believing they get the recommended daily amount of whole grain, but only 5 percent actually consuming enough, the study may point to a general lack of education in America regarding whole grain.

Whole Grain Misconceptions
According to the General Mills Whole Grain Check-up, 92 percent of Americans know whole grain is important in their diets, and approximately half of respondents say they specifically shop for whole grain products. Despite these results, the study suggests some consumers may be confused about whole grain. For example, only 55 percent of respondents knew how to correctly identify whole grain on a food label. Additionally, 28 percent didn’t understand the difference between “whole grain” and “enriched grain.” (Only a whole grain contains all three parts of the grain, and the potential subsequent health benefits.)

The survey also found Americans know getting the whole grain recommended starts with breakfast. Results showed 81 percent of respondents associate whole grain with breakfast. But while 46 percent of consumers think of bread as their primary source of whole grain, in reality, ready-to-eat cereal is the leading whole grain source for Americans. More than one-quarter of all their whole grain comes from ready-to-eat cereals, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Barriers to Whole Grain Consumption
According to the study, taste, convenience and price may be barriers to Americans eating the recommended amount of whole grain. Thirty-five percent cited taste as a barrier to getting more whole grain. Twenty-seven percent of Americans surveyed said price is a barrier and 24 percent stated lack of convenience keeps them from consuming more whole grain.

Demographic Differences
Generally speaking, the study found that the older the participant, the more likely they were to believe they were getting enough whole grain. Seventy-one percent of respondents 55 years old or older believed they are getting enough whole grain, while among 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed, that number dropped to 47 percent. Results also showed 58 percent of women believing they get enough whole grain in their diets, compared to 64 percent of men.

Why Whole Grain?
Only whole grain provides vital nutrients found in the complete grain. In addition to fiber, whole grains contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients for a healthy diet. Whole grains are those that contain the complete grain, including the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The health benefits of whole grain come from these three components working together naturally. A diet high in whole grain has been found to help with diabetes and weight management and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

“We are committed to continuing our role as a health leader in the cereal category,” said Harmening. “Closing the whole grain gap is a major part of this commitment.”

About General Mills Big G Cereals
General Mills Big G cereals have led many cereal health and nutrition initiatives. In 2005, General Mills guaranteed every Big G cereal contained at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving. Today, Big G cereals, like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios and Fiber One, comprise America’s number one source of whole grain at breakfast, and more than 20 Big G cereals deliver 16 grams or more of whole grain per serving. General Mills currently delivers almost 37.5 million whole grain servings per day with Big G cereals.

About General Mills
One of the world’s leading food companies, General Mills operates in more than 100 countries and markets more than 100 consumer brands, including Cheerios, Häagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Progresso, Yoplait, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, General Mills had fiscal 2010 global net sales of US$16 billion, including the company’s $1.2 billion proportionate share of joint venture net sales.

About the Survey
The General Mills Whole Grain Check-up was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation’s omnibus service, CARAVAN®, on October 14-17, 2010. The survey was conducted as a random-digit-dial telephone survey among a national probability sample of 1,010 adults comprising 502 men and 508 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Shelly Dvorak
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