More Veggies, Please?

Recent evidence released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is disturbing, to say the least. The USDA’s dietary guidelines recommend that adults consume between 2.5 and 3 cups of vegetables per day. But according to the USDA’s figures, only about 1.7 cups per person are available. Even worse, 50 percent of veggies and legumes sold in 2013 comprised potatoes and tomatoes, with lettuce coming in third.

The official dietary guidelines recommend a wide variety of veggies—including orange, yellow and dark leafy greens—in addition to beans. Given the limited variety and amount of plant foods available, it’s not surprising (but very worrisome just the same) that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a staggering 87 percent of adults did not meet the vegetable consumption recommendations during 2007–2010.

Within this dark cloud is an even darker lining. Of the tomatoes and potatoes we do eat, about two-thirds of the tomatoes and one-third of the potatoes are not eaten fresh. Instead, according to the USDA, these nutritious plant foods are transformed into un-nutritious processed foods, such as french fries, chips, ketchup, and marinara sauce.

“We have a serious disconnect between agriculture and health policy in our country,” said Marion Nestle, a leading nutrition researcher and author at New York University. “The USDA does not support ‘specialty crops’ [like vegetables] to any appreciable extent, and the Department of Commerce’s figures show that the relative price of fruits and vegetables has gone up much faster than that of fast food or sodas.” So while Americans are told to eat fruits and vegetables for their health, the government has meanwhile directed most of its food subsidy dollars toward other crops that end up in cheaper, less healthy processed food.

So, how can we solve this dramatic and dangerous dilemma? Stay tuned …

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.