90% of Americans do not consume the recommended daily serving amounts of fruits and vegetables. I know I've said it before, but this seems like an unrealistically high statistic. However, based on a Times article, the three driving factors that increase the chances of individuals not meeting recommendations of fruits and vegetables are cost, education, and availability/insecurity.
I researched current influences of cost surrounding decreased fruit and vegetable consumption. The results are not surprising, as the price is not the first cause as to why so many Americans fall short on fresh food intake. So if cost isn't the first driving factor, what is? If you guessed availability, you're correct.
Availability/Insecurity- 1 in 9 Americans suffer from food insecurity. This means there is not enough affordable or available food that specific demographics can access. This food disparity includes race, social status, economic rank, gender, and education level. As of 2019, over 13 million Americans suffer from food insecurity. The lack of access or availability is also referred to as "food deserts," meaning certain foods are scarce and hard to find in areas of the country. Food deserts are most prevalent in poor, urban neighborhoods. In addition, access to fresh foods is not available to everyone in the country, leading to disparities in nutrient deficiencies among the impoverished.
Cost- Eating healthy can indeed cost more than eating prepackaged, processed foods, but not by much. Purchasing fresh foods and vegetables can cost more because they have a shorter shelf life. Therefore, they are more expensive to maintain to keep fresh. A study conducted in 2013 elucidates that eating fresh foods costs each individual $1.50 more per day than eating packaged foods. Misinformation around food costs can result in adverse health consequences.
Education- A lack of nutrition education among minorities and those impoverished influences food choices and habits, resulting in adverse health outcomes due to reduced nutrition. Therefore, it is essential to educate communities on the benefits of nutrition for disease prevention.
Below are some ideas for increasing your daily consumption of fruits and vegetables-
1. Ditch the belief that fruits and vegetables are too expensive. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you can purchase up to four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit for under $2 a day.
2. Find out how many servings of fruits and vegetables you need per day. This is a crucial step to determine how much you should be consuming at a minimum per day.
3. Get creative. Try swapping vegetables like spiralized zucchini or sweet potatoes for pasta.
4. Add them in. Making a smoothie and adding spinach is a great way to include a serving of vegetables and fruits at the same time.
5. Try Juicing. Juicing is a great way to explore different flavors and mask others without committing to the textures and fibers of the produce. It is also an excellent way to increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting compounds such as phytochemicals.
6. Get innovative- Start a garden or even an herb garden if you have space. Produce grown from the dirt in your backyard not only tastes better but is also more nutritious.
Recommended Daily Serving of Fruits and Vegetables
Based on MyPlate.gov, the recommended daily amount for men for fruits is 2 cups, and for vegetables, 2.5-3 cups per day. Women require 1.5- 2 cups of fruit and 2-2.5 cups of vegetables per day.
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Griffin, Morgan. (2017). WebMD. Is Healthy Food Really More Expensive? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/features/healthy-food-cost
Bailey. Regan. (2015). The Epidemiology of Global Micronutrient Deficiencies. Retrieved from https://www.karger.com/Article/Pdf/371618
Brooks, Kelly. (2014). RESEARCH SHOWS FOOD DESERTS MORE ABUNDANT IN MINORITY NEIGHBORHOODS. Retrieved from https://hub.jhu.edu/magazine/2014/spring/racial-food-deserts/
Harvard Health Reviews. (2009). Chicago Tribune. Add Fruits and Veggies to Your Diet. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-health-fruit-vegetables-diet-story.html