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What Americans of Hispanic Origin Eat

By Judy McBride
October 7, 1999

For the first time, national food and nutrient intakes of Mexican Americans and other people of Hispanic origin are available from USDA. The data are drawn from the 1994-96 What We Eat In America Survey (a.k.a. CSFII), managed by the Agricultural Research Service, USDA's chief scientific agency.

Public health professionals, researchers, educators and dietitians serving the Hispanic community can now spot dietary patterns that could impact the health of these groups.

For instance, the data show that Mexican Americans eat more fiber than other Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks. The average fiber intake for all Mexican Americans was 17 grams daily, closer than the other groups to the 20-30 grams recommended by the National Institutes of Health. Adult Mexican American males age 20 and over consumed nearly 24 grams of fiber on average, while teenage males consumed nearly 20 grams.

Legumes may contribute a large portion of that fiber in the Mexican American male diet. Adult males averaged 107 grams of legumes a day. That's double the intake of other Hispanics and almost four times greater than the non-Hispanic groups. Teenage Mexican American males consumed two to six times more legumes than the other groups, averaging 71 grams daily.

Not surprisingly, Mexican Americans eat more tortillas and taco shells than other Hispanics--about twice as much. The latter group eats three times more rice than Mexican Americans. Mexican Americans also lean toward whole milk, which accounts for 63 percent of milk consumed compared to 59 percent for other Hispanics and 25 percent for whites. Nearly 70 percent of the milk consumed by blacks is whole milk over low-fat alternatives.

In 1994-96, both Hispanic groups were low in the same nutrients as the general population, with intakes of vitamin E, calcium and zinc below Recommended Dietary Allowances. Blacks also fell below the 1989 RDA for magnesium.

To view the data tables, visit the web site of USDA's Food Surveys Research Group at:

The raw data are available on CD-ROM from the National Technical Information Service at 1-800-553-6847 (Accession No. PB98-500457).

Scientific contact: Katherine Tippett, Food Surveys Research Group, ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-0170, fax (301) 504-0376,