By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD Date: 8/12/11
What ails you? According to new research from IFIC, maintaining health and reducing risk of disease is at the forefront of many consumers’ minds as they age. Specifically, 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 include:
1) Fruits and Vegetables (70%)
2) Fish/Fish Oil (18%)
3) Dairy (16%)
4) Whole Grains (13%)
5) Herbs & Spices (10%)
Americans have made it clear that they are interested in taking advantage of the health benefits of food. However, we need to broaden our perspective about functional foods. While important, it’s not just fruits and vegetables that can improve health. There are lots of healthful components like soy, fiber, whole grains and probiotics in a variety of foods and beverages that can make a difference in our health, especially as we age.
Bone health, eye health, heart health and protection against free radical damage are all important aspects of healthy aging. Many consumers recognize food components which are associated with these particular health benefits. Specifically:
- More than nine out of 10 Americans are aware of the relationship between calcium and vitamin D and bone health.
- More than eight out of 10 Americans are aware of the benefits of antioxidants for protection against free radical damage associated with aging and various chronic diseases.
- Over half of consumers (57 percent) are aware of the benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin for maintaining eye health and improving vision under conditions of glare.
However, when it comes to reported consumption of various components related to healthy aging, just over half of Americans say that they are currently consuming vitamin D, calcium and antioxidants. Only a third of Americans say that they are consuming lutein and zeaxanthin to maintain eye health.