Insufficient Fruit and Vegetable Intake in Majority of U.S. Adults

Key Takeaways:

  • Though most U.S. adults consume vegetables daily, fruit intake seems to be declining, with only about two-thirds reporting daily fruit consumption.
  • Despite the majority of Americans consuming vegetables and fruit daily, this report doesn’t specify whether the recommended daily amount is being met. Starchy vegetable consumption like French fries could potentially misrepresent the finding.
  • There are clear income-based disparities in fruit and vegetable intake with lower income groups showing lesser consumption of fruits and most vegetables.
  • Fruit juice does contribute to daily fruit intake recommendations, but caution is advised regarding added sugars. The daily fruit consumption may have dropped due to increased awareness of sugar in commercial juices.
  • Nutrition experts recommend a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables for a nutrient-rich diet. Larger measures beyond just food policy need to implemented to ensure all Americans have access to affordable fresh produce.

Recent surveys suggest that although a large number of adults in the United States are consuming vegetables every day, their fruit intake is lacking.

Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: A closer look

Studies reveal that upwards of 95% of American adults consume vegetables each day, but the conventional wisdom of an “apple a day” seems to be losing its charm, with only about two-thirds attesting to daily fruit consumption—a significant decline from two decades prior.

Although it is heartening that consumers are eating vegetables every day, only total (“any”) consumption was measured in the survey, not whether the recommended daily amount of produce was being consumed.

A surprising, albeit incomplete, picture

Despite the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines advising adults to consume 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily, previous studies indicate that 90% of Americans don’t achieve this target. The high percentage of Americans consuming at least some vegetables and fruit daily comes as a surprise, given this scenario.

One looming question, however, is whether this reported consumption accounts for those indulging in starchy vegetables like French fries, which might skew the interpretation of the findings. Lead researcher, Nicholas Ansai, regardless, chooses to see the results optimistically.

Disparity in Fruit & Vegetable Intake

In the survey, income-based differences in consumption were also observed, with lower-income Americans reporting lesser consumption of fruits, leafy greens, and red and orange vegetables. Unfortunately, this has been a long-standing issue in the American diet and it doesn’t seem to be improving, based on Ansai’s findings.

When it comes to starchy vegetables and fruit juices, though, similar consumption was reported amongst low- and high-income individuals. As a matter of fact, about 31% of Americans claimed to consume 100% fruit juice on any given day.

To Juice or Not to Juice?

Fruit juice does count towards the daily fruit intake recommendation of 1 to 2 cups. However, added sugars should be avoided and consumption limited to one cup a day. Whole fruit, due to its fiber content and satisfying nature, should be prioritized.

Surprisingly, the percentage of Americans consuming fruits daily has dropped from 77% in 1999/2000 to around two-thirds presently, which might be due to increased awareness about the hidden sugars in commercial juices.

Addressing Nutrient Gap for Low-Income Americans

Federal programs such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and SNAP (“food stamp” program) have contributed greatly towards ensuring nutritious food for families that need assistance.

However, other factors like housing security, access to affordable fresh produce, and education quality play a crucial role in dietary habits. Broader measures need to be taken to make healthy food accessible to more Americans, as these factors extend beyond just food policy.

Eating a Rainbow: The Key to a Nutrient-Rich Diet

Nutrition experts encourage a diversified intake of whole fruits and vegetables. Consuming an array of different colored fruits and vegetables provides a wide range of nutrients for an overall healthier diet.

Homemade vegetable juice can be a convenient and palatable option. Overviewed that leftover solid residue should ideally be added to stews or soups, to capture all the nutrition from the juicing process.

For tips on eating healthily on a budget, please visit this page by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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