Optimum health absolutely depends on eating enough fruits and vegetables everyday. They are chalk full of important vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (like quercetin and lutein), polysterols, polyphenols, antioxidants, as well as healthy sugar and fiber. The complexity of these nutrients in their natural forms provide synergistic health benefits that are still a mystery to researchers, benefits that isolated supplements alone don’t provide. Check out the impressive list of recommendations for daily fruit and vegetable intake:
According to the American Cancer Society, adults should eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily to help prevent cancer. The Linus Paulings Institute, Oregon State University’s micronutrient research lab recommends “four servings (2 cups) of fruit and five servings (2½ cups) of vegetables daily,” not including white potatoes, for a total of 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.”  The FDA says, ” Moderate evidence indicates that intake of at least 2½ cups [5 servings] of vegetables and fruits per day is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. Some vegetables and fruits may be protective against certain types of cancer.” And finally, The Center for Disease Control recommends eating more fruits and vegetables as well. You can use their handy calculator to help you determine how many fruits and vegetables you need each day based on your caloric intake: Fruit and Veggie Calculator
Yet despite all these recommendations, only 1% of children and 3% of adults consume the daily amount of fruits and vegetables recommended by the FDA (an amount which isn’t very high)! I learned about this statistic at a local presentation entitled “Food Justice,” which was primarily about US agricultural and farm policy. Two speakers gave the presentation, one from the Environmental Working Group and the other from Bread for the World. Given the dismal statistic they provided, it is no wonder that disease and obesity are so prevalent in our society! The presenters discussed some of the barriers to eating healthy, including the expensive cost of fruits and vegetables, as well as the lack of access to stores that offer fresh fruits and vegetables (although not as big an issue in Northern California, where fruit and vegetable crops abound). They also argued that a large part of the problem is the disproportionate amount of subsidies the government offers farmers for growing cereal crops, rather than fruit and vegetables. The Farm Bill, which determines the amount and dispersion of subsidies, allocated 170 billion dollars (70% of subsidies over 15 years) for just five grain crops and no subsidies to fruits and vegetable crops, which are considered “specialty crops.” Approximately 50% of the grains went to feeding livestock, and 30% to ethanol.
Perhaps one of the best ways to combat this problem is for people to start growing their own vegetables: home and community gardens. Those of us with access to farmer’s markets can also support our local farmers, who usually offer fresher produce with less pesticides than what is found at the local supermarket. Check out the following database to find access to fresh produce near you: Local Harvest
A Cancer Journal for Clinicians
Linus Pauling Institute, Rx for Health
FDA Food Guidelines
Environmental Working Group, “National Analysis”
“Specialty Crops and the 2007 Farm Bill” by Mechel Paggi
Originally posted 2011-03-21 01:48:00.