Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply, 1909-2000

Resource type
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Final report (11.01 MB)

This report presents historical data on the nutrient content of the U.S. food supply. The data and trends presented in this report are invaluable for monitoring the potential of the food supply to meet nutritional needs; for examining relationships between food supplies, diet, and health; and for examining dietary trends of Americans. Additionally, food supply nutrient estimates reflect federal enrichment and fortification standards and technological advances in the food industry and contribute to the federal dietary guidance system. As such, these data are of interest to agricultural policymakers, economists, nutrition researchers, and nutrition and public health educators.

Data are provided for food energy and the energy-yielding nutrients—protein, carbohydrate, and fat (total, saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and 19 individual fatty acids); cholesterol; dietary fiber; 10 vitamins; and 9 minerals. New to this report are vitamin A reported as retinol activity equivalents (m RAE) and folate reported as dietary folate equivalents (DFE). Included are estimates of quantities of food energy and nutrients per capita per day for the years 1909 through 2000. Estimates of percentage contributions of nutrients by major food groups and quantities of food available for consumption are provided for selected years for each of the nutrients and dietary components included in this report except for the 19 individual fatty acids.

Key Findings
  • In 2000, food energy levels were at 3,900 kilocalories, the highest level in the series. This level reflects higher levels of macronutrients, principally fat, in 2000 than in 1909.
  • Cholesterol levels were lower in 2000 than in 1909, reflecting the decreased use of animal fat but mostly the decline in egg use.
  • The level of carbohydrate over the series generally decreased until the early 1980s due to the decreased use of grains. Since that time, the level has increased. This reflects the trend toward increased consumption of grain products and sugars and sweeteners in more recent years.
  • Levels for most vitamins and minerals were higher in 2000 than in 1909. Higher levels of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron reflect federal enrichment standards and the greater use of enriched grain products. The higher folate level in 2000 reflects folate fortification of grain products beginning in 1998. The level of vitamin A was higher in 2000 than in 1909, but this level fluctuated over the series depending on the mix of animal and plant foods in the food supply, as well as that available due to fortification of certain foods with vitamin A. The higher carotene level is linked to the increased use of vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots. The higher vitamin C level in 2000 was due to increased fruit availability, especially citrus fruits since the early 1900s. The higher vitamin E level in 2000 reflects the greater use of vegetable fats and oils and is associated with increases of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Higher calcium and phosphorus levels in 2000 reflect the increased consumption of lowfat milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products, such as dairy desserts. The availability of both copper and selenium were higher in 1909 than in 2000. Higher sodium levels indicate the availability of more processed foods, such as cheese and canned vegetables. Levels for vitamin B12 and potassium were lower in 2000 than in 1909, but over the series, met or exceeded current recommendations for a healthy diet on a national basis; the level of dietary fiber was also lower in 2000 than in 1909. The lower level of vitamin B12 in 2000 was due to the decreased consumption of eggs and organ meats; whereas, the lower level of potassium reflects lower consumption of plant foods, fresh potatoes, in particular.
  • The lower level of dietary fiber in 2000 was attributable to decreased consumption of grains, fresh vegetables (mainly potatoes), and non-citrus fresh fruits since 1909.
Page updated: November 22, 2023