ST. LOUIS, Sept. 22 /PRNewswire/ — Evidence suggests changing eating habits regularly — and not sticking to any one diet for long — is a long term trend among Americans. But, beware: constantly changing the diet may actually sabotage good health, if smart eating patterns are never established. Jumping on the latest dietary fad isn't always as beneficial as basic good nutrition like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and high quality protein sources like soy and lean meats.

As a promising long-term phenomenon, an increasing number of Americans turn to soy as a healthy choice. Results released today from the 2008 Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition survey — the 15th annual research study sponsored by the United Soybean Board (USB) — uncovered these findings.

The study revealed that 74 percent of consumers changed eating habits in the past three to five years due to health concerns, a number that has remained relatively consistent over the last 15 years. The International Food and Information Council (IFIC) confirms this trend, noting that 67 percent of Americans have changed their diets over the past six months alone. The main reasons? According to IFIC's 2008 Food & Health Survey, a majority of Americans change their diets to improve overall well-being (69 percent), lose weight (69 percent) or improve physical health (64 percent).

Overall, nine in 10 Americans in the USB study express concern about nutrition. "The trick is to find sensible solutions you can stick with, day in and day out. I recommend soy to my patients because the wide variety of soy products helps fight food boredom — and many soyfoods satisfy the demand for healthy eating on a budget too," says Keith Ayoob, Ed.D., R.D., Director of Nutrition Services at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

According to the USB study, 85 percent of consumers view soy as healthy, on par with 2007, and up 26 percentage points from 1997. In fact, a growing number of consumers specifically seek out soyfoods to aid in weight management, promote heart health and reduce the risk of some cancers, up 10 points over the last three years.

Soyfoods, soy beverages and soybean oils offer three simple options for consumers looking to increase their intake of healthier foods, when replacing foods higher in saturated fat. In the study, consumers continue to recognize soybean oil as one of the healthiest cooking oils. Soybean oil, commonly labeled as vegetable oil, contains zero grams of trans fat, no cholesterol and is relatively low in saturated fat.

Turning to soy protein, the ongoing trend toward healthy, versatile foods and an increase in offerings at mainstream grocery stores has promoted the increase of trial and awareness of soy foods and beverages. In 1997, 18 percent of consumers surveyed had tried soymilk. Today, this number has more than doubled to 40 percent, and consumption of other soyfoods such as edamame and tofu are also on the rise.

Food companies are taking note: from 2000 to 2007, food manufacturers in the U.S. introduced over 2,700 new foods with soy as an ingredient, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database. This includes 161 new products introduced last year alone.

USB's fifteenth annual Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition was conducted by an independent research firm. The study includes 1,000 random online surveys conducted in February 2008, providing a sample consistent with the total American population. The margin of error is +/- 1.9 to 3.1 percent with a confidence interval of 95 percent. The United Soybean Board is a farmer-led organization comprised of 68 farmer-directors. USB oversees the investments of the soybean checkoff of all U.S. soybean farmers. For more soy health information, visit http://www.soyconnection.com.

SOURCE United Soybean Board

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