Brazilian diet: what is the country eating?

Photo by Rodrigo Paoletti/ Flickr

Too much sugar, too much salt, lots of food with low nutritious value and three daily cups of coffee. That is on the table of Brazilians, according to a study just released by IBGE, the federal statistics bureau. Even if the balanced and healthy traditional rice-bean-meat menu is still prevalent, the country needs to reconsider its diet. According to IBGE:

The ingestion of some components of a healthy diet, such as rice, beans, fresh fish and cassava flour, decreases as the per capita family income increases.  In opposition, the consumption of pizza, fried snacks, sweets and soft drinks rises.  The ingestion of fruits, vegetables and diet/light dairy products also increases in this income range.

Each Brazilian consumes, in average (in grams per day)*:

Here are some of the main conclusions of this study, based on 34 thousand interviews made in 2008 and 2009:

  • In average, there is a daily individual intake of 2,044 kilocalories – predictably, teen males eat more (2,289 Kcal) and elders of both genders less (between 1,490 kcal and 1,796 kcal).
  • Coffee is, by very far, the most common food (food?) ingested in the country. Each individual drinks, in average, three little cups (xicrinha) every day. Nothing new here. In the forties Frank Sinatra used to make of the way Brazilians love the dark beverage (more about that here). Then, come the beans (brown or black, according to the region) and rice, 160 grams (5.6 ounces), the national bread-and-butter. At least 70% of the population has this combination almost daily.
  • Fresh fish is particularly popular in the North region; corn products, in the Northeast, and tea, in South. Consumption of cheese and raw salad increases with age, while the consumption of greens, fruits and low-fat milk increases with income.
  • Now a surprise: meat is more common in the Brazilian diet than bread. Each individual eats 63.2 grams (2.2 ounces) of cattle meat and 53 grams (1.9 ounces) of pão francês (the mini-loaf that is way more common than any other type of bread) daily. Brazilians consume, in average, less than 1 gram (0.03 ounces) daily of whole wheat bread. Food with lots of fibers and without saturated grease are not very popular either, specially among teens.
  • A little over 40% of the interviewees said that at least once a day they eat out of their house. This represents at least 16% of their total caloric ingestion and it is a main trend in the urban areas, in the Southeast region, among men and those with the highest per capita family income.
  • Less than 10% of the population eats 400 grams of fruits and vegetables daily, as recommended by the Ministry of Health. On the other hand 61% overeat sugar – and this is more dramatic among teens. Sugar represents over 21% of all the calories they ingest, while the ideal would be up to 10%. The average individual drinks 94.7 milliliter (0.4 cups) of soda every day. There is also a pretty high ingestion of salt and grease.

Naturally, all these numbers represent averages. For instance: In some groups and in certain states (such as Rio Grande do Sul), meat is extremely common in a meal, while other groups still don’t have access to animal protein of any sort. Curiously, the study showed that the middle classes eat more meat than the richest portion of the population.

You can find a very detailed portrait of the Brazilian’s diet on IBGE’s website (in English).

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