Study: Consumers go nuts for plant-based fats
Of ten food categories tracked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, only one – nuts – saw per capita consumption increase from 2000 to 2010. As both nutritionists and industry spokespeople touted the nutritional value of nuts, daily intake rose by 26%, according to the report, detailed in Amber Waves.
Overall caloric intake during the ten-year period slipped to 2,478 calories per day, down 3% from 2,540 calories in 2000.
Fat consumption — partly because of nuts' new found fans — increased in the years between 2000 and 2010. Plant-based fat sources — including grains, produce, sugar and added fats — accounted for 71% of caloric intake in 2010, up from 70% in 2000. USDA figures show added plants-based fats made the largest “share of stomach” gain, at 2%.
Consumers are clearly paying more attention to what they eat and where they get their calories from. Added sugar consumption dropped 11% between 2000 and 2010. This trend is likely to continue as the public becomes more educated about the health risks of high sugar levels, especially following recent state taxes on sugary beverages.
Red meat and poultry also saw caloric losses in the report. As long as diets remain balanced, this is a positive change — fats found in meats can contribute to heart disease and other health issues, while plant-based fats do not.
Still, many consumers — millennials in particular — have begun to change the perception of fats overall. Once a no-no ingredient, younger demographics have begun to identify and consume sources of so-called “good fats.” Millennials who have eaten animal fats jumped from 15% in 2015 to 24% in 2016.
Fats from nuts are getting a new lease on life and are now hailed by many as a better-for-you diet ingredient. This is partially due to the rise of nuts as an alternative for dairy-free products, as consumers have moved away from traditional milk and yogurt applications. Nuts can also substitute for grains in gluten-free products, which have contributed to diets higher in plant-based fat.