Eat Your Vegetables

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We all know that we should eat our vegetables; specifically 9 servings of fruits and vegetables, or about 4 1/2 cups per day. The USDA suggests that 3 of those cups be vegetables. The problem is, only about 1.7 cups of vegetables are actually available to us to consume.

Of all of the vegetables and legumes readily available in the United States, a whopping 50% of them are potatoes and tomatoes. Lettuce comes in at 3rd place. Of these amounts, 1/3 of all potatoes and 2/3 of all tomatoes were sent for processing. With these statistics, it is no wonder that the average American thinks eating their vegetables means french fries and ketchup.

The federal guidlines perscribe a variety of vegetables in a rainbow of colors, including dark leafy greens, yellow and orange vegetables and beans all of which help us stave off heart disease, some cancers and strokes.

According to an article on NPR, only 13% of American adults were eating the recommended amount of vegetables each day. That number varied by region, with only 5.5% of those living in Mississippi getting their fill. California, thought of as a healthier state, had only 13% meeting the requirements.

A recent report by the USDA states that the U.S. needs to up its supply of vegetables by 70%, mostly in the vegetables other than potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce, in order to meet our nutritional needs. The real question remains, will the people eat them if they are more readily available? Unfortunately, the supply will not increase without the demand.  Many people stick to the few foods that they know, and have not developed a taste for other vegetables.

The CDC reports that since 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed, there are more schools serving two vegetables and more whole grains than previously. A Rudd Center study of kid’s food habits showed that they are eating more fruit, throwing away less vegetables, and eating more of the healthier entrees being served to them. Hopefully, these children will develop a taste for healthy vegetables beyond potatoes and tomotoes, and the demand for more variety will serve to increase the amount of these more nutritious vegetables grown in the United States. For now, it is a self fulfilling prophecy.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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