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Americans falling short on veggie consumption

I’m anxiously waiting to enjoy an array of garden fresh vegetables offered by my green-thumb friends and neighbors this time of year. (I pay them back in the fall, when I get to share an abundance of apples from my two prolific trees.)

Besides the fact that right-out-of-the-garden fruit and vegetables are astoundingly delicious, we also know that plant produce is over-the-top good for our health. That, in fact, may be the one thing nutrition experts wholeheartedly agree on.

Here are some other worthy-of-note facts about fruits and vegetables from the Alliance for Food and Farming (www.safefruitsandveggies.com).

• We don’t eat nearly enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 1 in 10 Americans eats the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables every day. (That’s 1 to 2 cups a day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups a day of vegetables for most of us.) Unfortunately, the folks with the lowest reported intake of these important foods are men, young adults and people living in poverty.

• 20,000 cases of cancer could be prevented in this country every year if half of us would eat just one additional serving of fruit or vegetable every day. That’s according to a scientific report published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

• Residues, dirt and bacteria can be effectively removed from fresh produce by simply washing it under cold or warm tap water (no soap needed). And remember to toss the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage, says the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These rules apply to both conventional and organically-grown produce. And don’t forget the importance of clean hands and utensils as well.

• Fruits and vegetables can make you happy (or “cheery” as the British say.) That was the conclusion of researchers in the United Kingdom who studied the eating habits of 80,000 people. They reported that mental well-being rose with the number of daily portions of fruits and vegetables a person consumed. Think about that when you’re munching on a slice of watermelon or an ear of sweet corn this 4th of July.

• Produce is continually tested for safety. Over 99 percent of the produce tested by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program found either no pesticide residues or levels well below tolerance levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

• Studies that have shown health benefits of eating more produce include crops grown both conventionally and organically. We can make our own choices with confidence that we’re doing our bodies good. That’s a very encouraging fact.

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to barbara@quinnessentialnutrition.com.

 

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