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CDC: Most Americans Are Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables

The vast majority of Americans aren’t eating the recommended 1½ to 2 cups of fruit, and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables, per day, according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report included data from 441,456 adults, age 18 and older, who responded to the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). BRFSS is an annual, state-based, random-dialed telephone survey about health and health risk behaviors related to chronic disease. For the survey, participants were asked how often they consumed 100% fruit juice, whole fruit, dried beans, dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, and other vegetables, during the previous month. Researchers analyzed these answers by state along with information about the participants’ gender, age, ethnicity, and income-to-poverty ratio—a measure of income based on the poverty standard. They found:

  • Across the US, 12.2% of adults consumed the recommended amount of fruit each day. West Virginia had the lowest percentage (7.3%) of adults meeting this recommendation and Washington DC had the highest (15.5%).
  • Across the US, 9.3% of adults consumed the recommended amount of vegetables each day. West Virginia had the lowest percentage (5.8%) of adults meeting this recommendation and Alaska had the highest (12%).
  • Higher percentages of women (15.1%), adults in the age range of 31 to 50 (13.8%), and Hispanics (15.7%) met the fruit recommendations.
  • Higher percentages of women (10.9%), adults in the age range of 51 and older (10.9%), and people in the highest income group (11.4%) met the vegetable recommendations.
  • Gender was most strongly correlated with fruit intake and income was most strongly correlated with vegetable intake.

These low numbers are concerning because inadequate fruit and vegetable intakes have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity. The CDC report noted that previous research has identified certain barriers to eating fruits and vegetables, including high cost, limited access and availability, and perceived lack of preparation time. To address these obstacles, the CDC recommended strategies such as:

  • Increasing farm-to-institution programs in childcare facilities, schools, hospitals, and other places;
  • Improving access to high-quality fruits and vegetables in retail stores and markets;
  • Ensuring availability of fruits and vegetables in cafeterias and other food service venues; and,
  • Providing incentives to purchase fruits and vegetables for low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Source: CDC

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