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There’s no shortage of news about the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables. They add nutrients to diets, reduce the risk for leading causes of illness and death such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers, and help manage body weight when swapped for more calorie-dense foods.
The USDA MyPlate recommends that adults eat 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily, depending on age, sex and activity level. However, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data for 2007–2010, show that half of Americans consumed less than 1 cup of fruit and less than 1.5 cups of vegetables daily; 76 percent did not meet fruit intake recommendations, and 87 percent did not meet vegetable intake recommendations
Results of a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirm this shortfall. The study found that most adults in every state are not eating enough fruits and vegetables and, as a result, are placing themselves at increased risk for certain chronic diseases, according to a summary from the CDC.
CDC researchers analyzed the daily fruit and vegetable intake of American adults nationwide using data from the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the only source of dietary information for most states. The researchers found differences by state in the amount of fruits and vegetables adults are eating. Specifically the results showed that:
- 13 percent of adults overall met fruit intake recommendations, ranging from 8 percent in Tennessee to 18 percent in California.
- 9 percent of adults overall met vegetable intake recommendations, ranging from 6 percent in Mississippi to 13 percent in California.
Because of the significant health benefits associated with eating fruits and vegetables and the low intake currently across all states, the researchers concluded that more work is needed to increase demand and consumption.
Suggested strategies for improvement for adults might start with creating healthier eating patterns during childhood. Children who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables tend to eat more of them as adults. Childcare, schools and school districts can help by meeting or exceeding federal nutrition standards for meals and snacks and by serving fruits and vegetables whenever food is offered. Also, better placement pricing, and promotion of fruits and vegetables in grocery stores, restaurants, worksites and communities could make it easier for adults to choose healthier foods.
For retail dietitians, the study findings confirm the importance of promoting fresh produce, as well as frozen, canned and dried options.
Sources: National Cancer Institute. Usual dietary intakes: food intakes, US population, 2007–10.; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2013. July 10, 2015 / 64(26);709-713