Nation, we don’t have much time left to meet our Healthy People 2010 fruit and vegetable consumption goals.
So far, it’s not looking good. And we Minnesotans aren’t helping matters.
In 2009, according to data analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, only 32.5 percent of American adults are consuming two or more fruit servings daily and only 26.3 percent are eating three or more vegetable servings daily.
That’s far short of the hoped-for targets. The consortium of governmental and other health groups that set the goals in 2000 (obviously an optimistic time — the start of a new century, and all that) had thought that by 2010 some 75 percent of us would be eating at least two fruit servings daily and 50 percent would be eating at least three veggie servings daily.
But in fact, a smaller percentage of Americans (by 2.3 percent) are meeting the fruit requirement than in 2000. And the percentage of Americans eating three or more veggies daily hasn’t budged (statistically speaking).
Women, people 65 and older, college graduates, people with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, and people with an annual household income of $50,000 or more tended to consume more fruits and vegetables than other groups. But even their percentages were, um, pathetic.
Here in Minnesota, we did manage to up our consumption of veggies — but only marginally. Some 26.4 percent of us met the three-veggies-a-day goal in 2009, compared with 23.3 percent of us in 2000.
But we’re going backward on our fruit consumption. Only 31.2 percent of Minnesotans consumed two or more fruit servings daily in 2009 compared to 37.2 of us in 2000.
Only one state — Idaho (Idaho!) — showed significant increases in both fruit and vegetable consumption, but the absolute increases were meager: 27.9 percent to 32.9 percent for fruits and 24.7 percent to 27.8 percent for vegetables.
The place with the highest percentage of people meeting the fruit consumption target? Washington, D.C. (40.1 percent), followed closely by California (40.2 percent). And the place with the highest percentage of veggie consumption? Tennessee (33.0 percent), followed by Washington, D.C. (32.3 percent). (Could D.C.’s government workers be getting the nutrition message?)
The people surveyed weren’t given a definition of servings sizes, by the way — an obvious limitation of the report’s findings. The CDC and other health experts define a single serving size as ½ cup for most fruits and vegetables. For greens (lettuce, spinach, kale and the like), however, a single serving is 1 cup. And eating a single apple, banana, orange or other fruit also counts as one serving.
Why does this survey matter? Fruits and vegetables are, of course, critical for good health. Most health experts believe that we should be eating far more than five servings of them daily. And don’t think you can simply make up for not eating these foods by downing daily vitamin and mineral supplements. A growing body of research is showing that taking supplements is not the same as eating the foods themselves.
This is a great time of year for produce. Check out the fruit and veggie bins at your favorite co-op or grocery story this weekend. Or, better yet, buy straight from a grower at one of our many farmers’ markets.
Remember, your goal should be a minimum of two fruits and three veggies daily. That’s every day and throughout the year.
We can do better, Minnesota. Certainly better than Idaho.