Are you eating enough vegetables? By that I mean actual vegetables, on their own, in salads or prepared in a home-cooked meal, as opposed to in the form of ketchup, French fries and pizza.
The USDA recommends that Americans (adults) eat 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables every day and that those veggies should be varied. There are two problems with that, as shown in a recent data report provided by the department: the U.S. only has about 1.7 cups available per person each day and the majority of what we do have available consists of potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce. That’s not much variety.
Courtesy United States Department of Agriculture
According to NPR, the USDA “prescribe[s] a varied mix that includes dark leafy greens, orange and yellow vegetables, and beans—along with those potatoes and tomatoes.” The reasons for this are that these vegetables (as well as some fruits) provide necessary nutrients that we may not get otherwise and consumption of vegetables reduces our risk of heart attacks, strokes and some cancers. But when we’re eating them in the form of pizza, French fries and ketchup, the nutritional value is lost.
“We have a serious disconnect between agriculture and health policy in our country,” Marion Nestle, a leading nutrition researcher and author at New York University told NPR. “The USDA does not support ‘specialty crops’ [like vegetables] to any appreciable extent and the Department of Commerce’ figures show that the relative price of fruits and vegetables has gone up much faster than that of fast food or sodas.”
Monetarily, choosing the cheaper pizza and French fries is the logical choice for many Americans. The more this food is consumed, the harder it is to break the habit and eat healthier. However, as food systems and health analyst Lindsey Haynes-Maslow told NPR, “If more Americans got used to eating more fruits and vegetables they might be demanding more of it.”
If that happens, perhaps our 2½ to 3 cups of veggies per day will consist of more than just potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce.