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Americans Are Eating Fewer Fruits and Not Enough Vegetables


Regardless of all of the messages for the positive health benefits of consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, Americans appear to be eating less produce than they did a decade ago. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week released data from 2009 the shows that only 32.5% of adults are eating at least two fruits each day and only about 26% area eating the recommended number of vegetables.

Americans Not Meeting Nutrition Goals Set By Healthy People 2010

Healthy People 2010 objectives were set in the late 1970’s as a goal for improving the health of Americans by preventing or delaying the most common conditions and diseases that prematurely shorten lifespans. The goal for fruit and vegetable intake was for at least 75% of Americans (greater than 2 years old) to consume at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day as these foods are often linked to a reduction in the risk of many leading causes of death.

Read: Healthy People 2010 - How Did We Do?

To analyze the progress of these goals, the CDC uses data collected from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The report for 2009 found that only about 1/3 of Americans are currently meeting fruit consumption goals and just over a quarter are meeting the vegetable target.

Data was broken down for all states plus the District of Columbia. Information was also gathered on other factors such as gender, ethnicity, income, and education level.

Overall, 67.5% of adults consumed less than 2 fruits per day and 73.7% ate less than three vegetables daily. Fruit intake actually declined over the last decade, but vegetable intake remained about the same.

No individual state met the Healthy People 2010 goals for fruit or vegetable consumption. “We aren’t making progress,” said Dr. Jennifer Foltz, a CDC epidemiologist.

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Washington DC, at 40%, had the highest percentage of adults eating the recommended amount of fruit. Women were more likely to meet fruit goals over men, as were college graduates, those with annual household incomes greater than $50,000 and Hispanics. Interestingly, the older one got, the more likely they were to meet fruit goals – 41.3% of Americans 65 and older ate 2 or more fruits per day.

The five states with the lowest percentage of fruit eaters were Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky.

Tennessee had the highest percentage of adults eating the recommended amount of vegetables at 33% of the population (Washington DC came in second). Hispanic-Americans, while meeting their fruit goals, had the lowest prevalence of vegetable consumption. Again those with more education, more income and those over 65 were more likely to eat at least 3 vegetables each day.

South Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa and West Virginia were the least likely to meet vegetable goals.

Read: Americans Want Government Help to Make Healthy Choices

Of note – the data also collected information comparing fruit and vegetable intake to weight status. Those with body mass indexes (BMI) above normal (overweight and obese) were less likely to meet the goals for produce intake than those of normal weight.

“The findings underscore the need for interventions at national, state, and community levels, across multiple settings to improve fruit and vegetable access, availability, and affordability as a means of increasing consumption,” the CDC says in a news report.