Americans Look To Food To Improve Health

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Contact Matt Raymond or Jania Matthews at 202-296-6540 or

(Washington, D.C.) — Maintaining health and reducing risk of disease is at the forefront of many consumers’ minds as they age. New research from the International Food Information Council shows that Americans cite cardiovascular disease (46 percent), weight (32 percent) and cancer (22 percent) as their top health concerns. Along with these issues that can affect us as we age, almost one in five Americans (19 percent) cite healthy aging as a top health concern. 

The 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey, also shows that people often look to food for its health benefits.  Ninety percent of Americans can name at least one food and its associated benefit and 76 percent say that functional foods, or foods that can promote health, can have a meaningful impact on their health when they consume them.

The foods and food components Americans look to the most to help improve or maintain their health are:

1)     Fruits and Vegetables
2)     Fish/Fish Oil
3)     Dairy
4)     Whole Grains
5)     Herbs & Spices 

“Americans have made it clear that they want to take advantage of the health benefits of food,” according to Elizabeth Rahavi, RD, Associate Director of Health and Wellness at the International Food Information Council.  “But it’s not just fruits and vegetables that can have a positive impact on our health. There are lots of healthful components like antioxidants, fiber, whole grains, and soy found in a variety of foods and beverages that can make a difference in our health as we age.” 

The top components with benefits mentioned in the survey include calcium (92 percent) and vitamin D (90 Percent) for bone health, protein (87 percent) and B vitamins (86 percent) for overall well-being, omega-3 fatty acids (85%) for heart health, and probiotics (81 percent) and fiber (79 percent) for digestive health. 

Still, Americans struggle to incorporate these key food components into their diets citing the top barriers as expense, taste and availability. 

“Consuming foods for health benefits doesn’t have to be expensive,” according to Rahavi. “Just taking simple steps such as choosing a whole grain cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt for breakfast each day can go a long way to improve health over time.” 

The 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey randomly sampled 1000 U.S. adults and is the seventh version of the Survey dating back to 1998. Other topics in the Survey include attitudes toward health, awareness of 34 different diet and health relationships and top sources of nutrition and health information. 

Additional information about the the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey is available on the media resource page. You can also go to the Functional Foods Resource page for referenced fact sheets on functional foods and our Foods for Health video series featuring expert tips for eating for a variety of health benefits including healthy aging, weight management, digestive health, immune health and heart health. 

For interview requests and any other questions, please contact the IFIC media team at 202-296-6540, or  

The International Food Information Council's (IFIC's) mission is to effectively communicate science-based information on food safety and nutrition to health and nutrition professionals, educators, journalists, government officials and others providing information to consumers. IFIC is supported primarily by the broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries. IFIC and IFIC Foundation materials can be found on our Web site: