Everyone knows that eating a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, cancer, and a number of other deadly diseases. Certain produce, such as dark leafy greens and bright orange vegetables, are especially nutrient-dense and carry multiple health benefits. Despite this common knowledge, studies show that less than 15 percent of adults in the United States meet the daily recommendation of fruit and vegetable intake. In some states, such as Tennessee, the numbers plunge as low as seven and a half percent.
A new study reports, however, that our waning vegetable consumption may be no fault of our own. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, tomatoes and potatoes made up almost 50 percent of the vegetables and legumes available in the U.S. in 2013. Behind tomatoes and potatoes, lettuce is the third most available vegetable. While the USDA recommends that adults eat 2.5 to 3 of vegetables per day, this new data demonstrates that only 1.7 cups per person are available.
Even worse, most Americans likely get their potatoes and tomatoes in the least nutritious forms of french fries and pizza. Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, a food systems and health analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists attributed the low availability of vegetables to the lack of consumer demand for these foods. “If more Americans got used to eating more fruits and vegetables they might be demanding more of it. But it’s really hard to demand something you’ve not grown up with,” she said.
In order to transform the dietary landscape of our country, there needs to be a collective shift toward more healthful eating habits. As part of these efforts, improved school lunch programs and financial incentives have been implemented to promote consumption of these foods and build health-seeking habits in children.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow Daily Meal editorial staff member Nikkitha Bakshani.