20 Nutrition Statistics for a Healthier Nation (2020)

Last modified: October 11, 2020

Discover eating habits globally and in the US. It’ll help you understand how various diseases develop and what to do to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

If it’s true that we are what we eat, then it’s definitely worth putting in some effort to make that count. Proper nutrition has been the driving force that kept the human civilization alive for countless millennia, evolving along with us as the needs and capabilities of the modern individual grew.

Ironically, nutrition statistics and facts on healthy food and beverage intake of today show the exact opposite of progress. More and more people are turning from consuming natural food sources to gorging on processed foods, adding an unhealthy amount of excess sugar and salt to their daily diets. As a result, over two-thirds of the adult population in the US, and about one-third of children and youngsters, are overweight or obese. These physical conditions can drastically affect your long-term health and can pose an even greater risk if further complications arise. So, if we really are what we eat, then we’re neither good nor healthy.

There are plenty of statistics about nutrition that coincide with the previous statement; the ones presented down below only giving a general picture of how things are thus far. After all, acknowledging that there is, in fact, a problem is the first step towards solving it, and this one is of grave importance to us all.

Nutrition Statistics and Facts 2020 (Editor’s Pick)

  • 9% of high school students meet daily fruit intake recommendations.
  • Only 2% of high school students adhere to the suggested daily vegetable intake.
  • There are just 2.7 farmers’ markets available per 100,000 US citizens.
  • Since 1970, child obesity has quadrupled, and adolescent obesity — tripled.
  • Annually, 678,000 US deaths are attributed to nutrition-related diseases.
  • As little as 10 minutes of physical activity a day can make a difference in people’s health.
  • Nutrition-related diseases are costing the country nearly $800 billion annually.
  • 30% of US residents are leading completely sedentary lifestyles.

Healthy Eating Statistics in the US

1. Only 12.2% of adults in the USA meet the daily fruit intake recommendations.

The recommended amount of daily intake of fruits for an average adult living in the US is somewhere between one and a half cup and two whole ones. This is part of the latest government-supported dietary plan — the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The situation is even more alarming in the case of high-school students, as only 9% meet the provided recommendations, according to nutrition statistics.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2. Less than 10% of US adults adopt and stick to the recommended vegetable guidelines.To be more specific, only 9.3% of all adults maintain a daily intake of 2–3 cups of vegetables, as prescribed in the latest guidelines. With high school students, the percentage of the population that meets the suggested dose is just 2%.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3. Added sugars are a major part of daily unhealthy eating habits, statistics show.

Americans need to regulate their daily intake of added sugars — raw sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, honey, lactose, and more. The recommended dose is no more than 10% of the daily intake of calories. However, stats show that male adults consume 13% of their total daily calories from added sugars (335 calories on average); meanwhile, women consume (on average) 239 calories of these with the same rate as men. Moreover, the percentage is higher for children aged 2–19; up to 16% of their total daily calories. For boys, this averages around 362 calories, whereas for girls it’s more around 282 calories.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

4. American nutrition statistics show about 117 million adults suffering from one or more chronic diseases due to improper nutrition and lack of exercise.

The US population is suffering from diseases such as type 2 diabetes, different cancers, and various heart conditions. This is mostly the result of poor eating habits and a lack of physical activity.

Source: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

5. 23 million Americans, and counting, live in “food deserts.”

Over 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in so-called food deserts; meaning, there is no accessible supermarket in close proximity to their place of residence.

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

6. Only 2.7 farmers’ markets are available per 100,000 US citizens, significantly affecting statistics on healthy food availability.

Healthy food — fruits and vegetables are largely inaccessible for some families and residents of the less developed, rural areas of the US. A farmers’ market is a neat way of bringing locally grown produce closer to the general public due to more affordable pricing, longer operating hours, and higher quality of fruits and vegetables. Speaking of which, federal benefits are also available for such services — WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program coupons being some of them.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

 

Healthy Eating Statistics Globally

7. Micronutrient malnutrition, and the lack of data on the matter, is one key point of interest for achieving better global nutrition habits.

The latest Global Nutrition Report shows that there is a lack of data concerning micronutrient deficiencies. This situation has to improve if we wish to repair the existing high burden of malnutrition, in global terms.

Source: World Health Organization

 

8. A large percentage of women and children around the globe are in dire need of micronutrient supplements; according to nutrition statistics presented in the following table.

Coverage/ Practice Indicator Number of Countries with Data Minimum % Maximum % Mean % Median % for Countries with Data
Children 0–59 months who received zinc treatment 46 0.1 50.2 8.6 2.8
Children 6–59 months who received two doses of vitamin A supplements 58 4.5 86.4 57.0 60.9
Children 6–59 months who received iron supplements in past 7 days 56 1.3 45.4 14.6 11.6
Women who have given birth in the past 5 years, and received folic acid iron supplements during last pregnancy 62 22.6 96.6 74.6 81.0
Household consumption of iodized salt 52 18.0 99.8 82.7 90.9

 

According to the above-mentioned nutrition statistics, iron deficiency is one of the most serious micronutrient malnutrition conditions; especially since it is often wrongly attributed to anemia instead of other deficiencies, causing even more harm in the process. What is more, iodine deficiency is yet another such issue that requires additional public attention and further investigation to combat the growing issue of public health concerning women and children.

Source: Global Nutrition Report

 

9. Malnutrition in times of crisis and instability, as well as alarming healthy diet statistics for female adolescents and adults, are two other key points.

The report suggests a need for platforms, strategies, and other solutions to prevent cases of overlapping malnutrition among populations in destabilized regions. What is more, they call for campaigns for raising awareness among young girls and women regarding the benefits of proper nutrition, as well as the health risks involved in its absence.

Source: Global Nutrition Report

 

Unhealthy Eating Habits — Statistics & Projections

10. Since 1970, in the US, obesity in children has quadrupled, in adolescents — tripled, and among adults — doubled.

The latest calculations show that twice as many children aged 2–5 have become obese in the allotted timeframe. From a low 4% rate of obesity among children, aged 6–11, the percentage has risen up to 20%, whereas the number of obese adolescents, aged 12–19, has risen from 6% to 18%. Ultimately, the number of obese adults has effectively doubled, jumping from 15% to a staggering 34%.

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

 

The number of deaths — coupled with the fact that almost half of the population suffers from diseases caused by heart-, cancer-, and diabetes-related issues — shows the unhealthy eating practices of US citizens.

Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest

 

12. 18.66% of all deaths in the US in 2017 are attributed to heart disease, whereas another 6.03% and 6.67% are caused by strokes and lung cancer, respectively.

Unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits are the leading cause of death in the US, as the latest unhealthy eating statistics show. Yet, the current data also shows some promise with a steady decline in the number of cases — in respect to last year’s figures — with a −1.39% annual change in heart failure, −0.28% in strokes, and a −0.095% decrease in terminal lung cancer cases.

Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

 

Disease Cost
Diabetes $245 Billion
Cancer $216.6 Billion
Coronary heart disease $204.4 Billion
Obesity $190 Billion
High blood pressure $46.4 Billion
Stroke $36.5 Billion
Osteoporosis $19 Billion

Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest

 

14. US healthy food statistics show food-secure households going up since last year.

Since the last report, the number of food-secure households in the US has risen from 88.2% to 88.9%. This still leaves 11.1% of food-insecure households having either low or very low food security. In other words, these households don’t have the means to access proper food quality and quantity for a healthy lifestyle.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture — Economic Research Service

 

15. Healthy lifestyle statistics and habits may not coincide with environmentally friendly choices, study shows.

There has been a lot of talk regarding the adoption of a more eco-friendly and sustainable diet by people everywhere. With the topic of climate change trending now more than ever, the solution to sustainable eating is seen predominantly in plant-based foods. However, this type of diet offers little to no benefits for either stopping obesity or other malnutrition-caused chronic diseases. In fact, this may help induce “adverse health effects” altogether.

Source: American Society for Nutrition — Advances in Nutrition

 

Healthy Lifestyle Statistics — Food & Exercise

16. 25% of male adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines; 17% in the case of women in the US.

The Physical Activity Guidelines include both aerobic and muscle-strengthening recommendations. However, only a small percentage of the overall US population adheres to these guidelines. Still, the situation shows slight improvement since the previous measures were taken back in 2008 — an increase of 3% among male participants, as well as a 2% increase in the female camp.

Source: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

 

17. Healthy eating benefits statistics show that proper nutrition, and as little as 10 minutes of physical activity, can produce positive results.

There is no longer a valid excuse for lacking the time to exercise (on a daily basis) — current data shows that even short, 10-minute increments of physical activity can bring long-term health benefits.

Source: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

 

18. 30% of US residents report doing absolutely no physical activity; leisurely or intentionally.

This is somewhat generalized — data jumps will inevitably appear across different socio-economic groups, but the overall impression remains. One-third of the nation is not engaging in any kind of exercise at all, causing even more damage to their life expectancy when paired with poor eating habits.

Source: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

 

19. Vermont residents are topping the charts in healthy living statistics with the highest percentage of regular exercise.

The state of Vermont is on the very top of the list of states whose residents have reported engaging in regular exercise for 30 or more minutes, three or more days a week. The latest figures show 65.3% of Vermont residents, followed by 62.2% of Hawaiians, and 60.1% of Montana residents leading the way in terms of physical activity in the states.

Source: Gallup

 

20. Vermont and Montana are also topping nutrition statistics with the highest produce consumption rates on a state level.

Up to 67.8% of Vermont residents reported consuming produce at least 4 days a week, with Montana falling shortly behind with less than a 5% difference (63.0%). Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Missouri residents reported the lowest produce consumption throughout the week — with only 52.3% of Oklahoma residents eating five vegetable servings, for a minimum of four days a week.

Source: Gallup

 

Conclusion

Proper food and beverage intake is crucial for maintaining a healthy and working organism. Proof of this can be found all throughout the history of human civilization, as well as the supporting data we have today. Health risks, physical appearance, and micronutrient intake are only a small piece of a much larger puzzle, as nutrition statistics show. Seeing how it can potentially have devastating effects on our climate (impacting the state of the entire planet), nutrition is bound to be a hot topic for years to come.

FAQs

What does a ‘healthy diet’ consist of?

A healthy diet is a complex combination of all the different food groups. In general terms, it mainly deals with establishing a proper balance between calorie intake and expense. In this regard, particular attention is given to the intake of sugar, solid fats, sodium, and alcohol.

How can I take up a physical activity without straining myself?

The best way to take up some physical activity is to start out small with short exercise intervals and work your way up to more exhausting sessions over time. What is more, according to healthy lifestyle statistics, this practice should be accompanied with less sedentary time per day, as well as less time spent in front of the screen.

Is drinking water considered a part of a healthy diet?

Yes, overall water intake per day is actually recommended by specific health organizations, and is a vital piece of the whole nutrition puzzle.

Is breastfeeding really important for proper nutrition later on in life?

Yes, breastfeeding is, in fact, the first step towards adopting the right nutrition practices, and significantly contributes towards a healthier and more physically adept individual later on, according to the latest nutrition statistics.

Does proper nutrition do anything against obesity?

Yes, proper nutrition is bound to eliminate obesity and weight issues within individuals. However, this has to be supplemented with other healthy living habits in order for it to work. What is more, people ought to abandon less healthy habits, such as eating at fast-food restaurants every day — as a third of the US population have reported doing.

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