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Mom Told You to Eat Your Fruits & Vegetables — And With Good Reason


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released another study on how much fruits and vegetables are consumed by Americans and the findings were not encouraging. Only about 26 percent of Americans ate vegetables three or more times a day and only one-third of US adults consumed fruits or fruit juice twice a day. The numbers are down slightly from more than 34 percent in 2000 while vegetable consumption stayed the same from the 2000 study.

In 2007, the government began a campaign, The Healthy People 2010, to increase awareness of the important of eating more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. The new study suggests that we are no where near the goals set by the Healthy People 2010 objective. This objective projected that in 2010 at least 75 percent of Americans would be eating their recommended fruit servings and 50 percent of Americans would be eating their recommended vegetable servings.

CDC spokesperson Larry Cohen says people may not be eating these nutrient-rich foods because of cost, lack of time for preparations or lack of easy access to them. In 2007, in an effort to get people to eat more of these nutrient-rich foods, the CDC, the Produce for Better Health Foundation and other leading health groups launched a new initiative called “Fruits & Veggies—More Matters,” which replaced the “5 A Day” campaign.

The groups expected their new campaign to be a rallying cry to eat more fruits and vegetables. However, America wasn’t listening. Data from the CDC’s 2009 study was very discouraging. “Americans still don’t eat vegetables often enough and fruit consumption is actually dropping,” said Dr. Jennifer Foltz, one of the CDC study’s authors. “This data shows that we aren’t making progress, that’s for sure.” The study was done before a new wave of government efforts under the Obama administration, to promote home and community gardens and to expand the sale of fruits and vegetables at stores and convenient stores. “A new survey planned in 2011 will hopefully show an improvement,” said Foltz.

According to the most recent CDC study, no state met federal goals of three-quarters of Americans eating enough fruit, and half eating enough vegetables. California ate the most fruit and Tennessee was the best with vegetables. Oklahoma was at the bottom for fruit and South Dakota had the lowest vegetable consumption. The study also found that orange juice was the top source of fruit among adults and adolescents and potatoes are the favorite vegetable.

Dietitian Christine Winters, says that health officials have been trying to promote leafy greens and fruits as healthy alternatives to salty, fatty, and sugary foods. “Before when you went into a convenience store, you didn’t have that option of having fresh fruit or vegetables,” says Winters. “Now instead of grabbing that bag of chips, you can pick up a healthier choice. And by picking up that banana of apple instead of the brownie or chips, they will probably feel fuller, they probably spend less money, and they are making a healthier food choice,” adds Winters. “Just think how you would feel if you did that 4-5 times a day.”

Adding more fruits and vegetables to one’s diet can help reduce obesity. Research shows that diets high in fruits and vegetables decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and help with weight control. “Citrus fruit and some of the other dark leafy vegetables are loaded with vitamin C, which provides a better ability to fight off infection,” says Winters. “You make a healthier environment inside your body that promotes good health and fights disease. It (fruits and vegetables) is a very calorie-low source compared to many other food choices that you could make.”

To get a listing of how many servings of each food group you should be getting each day for you and your family, go to My Food Pyramid for more information. The website is also full of helpful eating tips and print outs of the latest food pyramid.

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