CDC: Only 10% of Americans Eat Enough Fruits, Vegetables

Just one in ten adults in the United States meet federal fruit or vegetable consumption recommendations, according to a study published on November 16 by the Atlanta, Georgia-headquartered Center for Disease Control entitled CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Depending on their age and sex, federal guidelines recommend that adults consume at least 1½ to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables as part of a healthy eating pattern. Yet in 2015, just 9 percent met the intake recommendations for vegetables, ranging from 6 percent in West Virginia to 12 percent in Alaska. Only 12 percent of adults met the recommendations for fruit, ranging from 7 percent in West Virginia to 16 percent in Washington, DC. Results showed that consumption was lower among men, young adults, and adults living on income levels below the poverty line.

Veg and Fruit

“This report highlights that very few Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables every day, putting them at risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease,” said Seung Hee Lee Kwan, PhD, of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, lead author of the study. “As a result, we’re missing out on the essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that fruits and vegetables provide.”

Seven of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States are from chronic diseases. It is believed that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables daily can help reduce the risk of many causes of illness and death, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity.

The findings indicate a need to identify and address barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption. Previous studies have found that high cost, limited availability and access, and perceived lack of cooking/preparation time can be barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption.

The CDC Guide to Strategies to Increase the Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables suggests 10 strategies to increase access to fruits and vegetables, including the following:

  • Start or expand farm-to-institution programs in childcare, schools, hospitals, workplaces, and other institutions.
  • Improve access to retail stores and markets that sell high quality fruits and vegetables.
  • Ensure access to fruits and vegetables in cafeterias and other food service venues in worksites, hospitals, and universities.

The CDC suggests that families can save time and money by choosing frozen or canned fruits and vegetables at the store, as well as by chopping extra fruit or vegetables at one time and freezing the extra or

AFFI Champions Frozens

AFFI logoThe American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) is in the forefront of promoting the convenience, economy and nutritional benefits of frozen fruit and vegetable consumption in the USA. Its affiliated Frozen Food Foundation has commissioned studies conducted by the Universities of Georgia and California-Davis that confirmed frozen fruits and vegetables are as rich in nutrients, and often more so, than fresh-stored produce. 

Meanwhile, a study presented at Experimental Biology 2017 in April revealed that Americans who eat frozen fruits and vegetables consume more fruits and vegetables overall. In fact, consumers of frozen fruits and vegetables also have significantly greater intakes of key nutrients such as potassium, fiber and calcium.

frozen fruits and vegThe findings, presented by Maureen Storey, PhD, and supported by the Frozen Food Foundation, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2011-14. When consumers of frozen fruits and vegetables were compared to non-consumers of same, the study results show:

  • Consumers of frozen fruits and vegetables eat more total fruits and vegetables than non-consumers.
  • Consumers of frozen fruits and vegetables have significantly higher intakes of nutrients of concern – potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D
  • Adult consumers of frozen fruits and vegetables have significantly lower BMI than non-consumers.

“At a time when Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, our research shows that eating frozen fruits and vegetables can help fill the gap in fruit and vegetable consumption,” said Dr. Storey. “In addition to increased consumption of nutrients of concern, frozen fruit and vegetable consumers also had a higher intake of vitamins A and C.”

The US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) define calcium, potassium, dietary fiber and vitamin D as nutrients of public health concern because low intakes are associated with health concerns. Specifically, the guidelines attribute low intake of fiber and potassium to decreased fruit and vegetable consumption.

“This research adds substantiation to the growing body of evidence that supports the important role frozen fruits and vegetables can play to help Americans meet daily intake recommendations set by the DGAs,” said Frozen Food Foundation President and CEO Alison Bodor. “While this research focused on fruits and vegetables, frozen foods and beverages also provide consumers with nutritious and convenient meals options while minimizing food waste.”