Don’t let popular summertime traditions such as corn on the cob and watermelon-eating contests fool you -- four out of five Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, according to new data released on Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency says Americans who neglect these key food groups are also neglecting their health.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says adults should consume between 1 1/2 and 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. But in 2013, less than 18 percent of Americans ate the recommended amount of fruits. For vegetables, the situation was even worse – less than 14 percent of Americans had enough, the CDC says.
This trend is not new and seems to be worsening slightly -- between 2007 and 2010, 76 percent of Americans failed to eat the recommended amount of fruits and 87 percent shirked their suggested daily allotment of vegetables.
The new data also shows that the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed by Americans varies widely between states. In Tennessee, as few as 8 percent of residents ate the right amount of fruit, while in Mississippi, only 6 percent of people consumed enough vegetables.
In California, which is home to one of the country’s most productive agricultural regions, the Central Valley, residents were far more likely to eat the recommended daily amount of both fruits and vegetables, with 18 percent and 13 percent doing so, respectively.
The health benefits of these two food groups are clear – they serve as an important source of nutrients such as fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. Many vegetables such as potatoes and spinach are high in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure, and fiber, which can reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart disease, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The CDC also points out that choosing carrots or peas over high-calorie foods can also help people lose weight.
The CDC report represents results from a telephone survey that collected information from 373,580 Americans. Some data from respondents who said they ate more than 16 servings of fruits or 23 servings of vegetables a day were excluded due to “implausible results,” the agency states.
In light of these findings, the CDC called for measures to make the price of fruits and vegetables more competitive with processed foods and to promote fruits and vegetables in schools.