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BLOG: March 2007

More veggies for better health

Is having three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day too much to ask for better health? According to the 2005 federal survey of 300,000 adults from all U.S. states, it is. Consumption rate of fruit and vegetables hasn't changed since 1994: only 27% of adults consume the above recommended minimum of vegetables, and 33% for fruits (Times).

Seniors tend to take their health somewhat more seriously, with 34% and 46%, respectively. Which means that the younger groups are below the overall average.

With a single serving varying from one food to another between ½ cup and a cup, veggies and fruits seem to be a pitifully small portion in the average American diet. Most of it still are either foods of animal origin, or processed foods in general.

The survey didn't include questions about personal reasons for particular food choices but, chances are, it has most to do with

poor habits and ignorance.

While we humans were surprisingly late to realize how important is food in maintaining health, it doesn't quite explain official half-heartedness in promoting even the very basic knowledge about it - let alone stimulating good dietary choices in any way.

The society wants to make sure that you know how to park your car, but when it comes to how good or bad for you is what you eat, you're pretty much on your own.

With Americans being among the most disease stricken developed nations, it obviously doesn't work well, but no one seems to be too concerned. There's a lot of money to make off both, health-related ignorance and resulting illnesses.

It starts early on, with the creation of dietary habits in children and teenagers. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2005 research, out of thousands targeted food advertisements that an average American child/teenager see every year, nearly all are for nutrient-depleted, calorie-rich processed and junk foods (New York Times).

It is no wonder that the

childhood obesity rate in the last 20 years has tripled.

More specifically, it has nearly tripled for the 2-5 years old (5% to 13.9%) and 6-11 years old (6.5% to 18.8%), while more than tripled (5% to 17.4%) for 12-19 years old Americans (National Center for Health Statistics).

Of course, there are other factors, such are sedentary leisure time (TV and games), snacks and sugary drinks overindulgence, as well as eating alone as opposed to having family meals.

These figures show that the general population, left on its own, doesn't do well when it comes to making healthy dietary choices. And that it is only becoming worse. Coordinated action is both, urgently needed and long overdue. It has to start with the change of perception: there is really no reason to treat health dangers coming from unhealthy foods and eating habits differently than those coming from alcohol, narcotics or nicotine.

It costs lives and money just the same.