A new report reveals that Americans are not meeting national recommendations for consumption of fruits and vegetables.

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Eating more fruits and vegetables reduces risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis concludes that only 13.1% of American adults eat enough fruits and only 8.9% eat enough vegetables.

The analysis uses the most recent national survey of median daily frequency of fruit and vegetable intake and shows that states varied widely in their consumption.

California ranks highest in consumption of both fruits (17.7% of adults) and vegetables (13%), while at the bottom of the list are Tennessee for fruit consumption (7.5%) and Mississippi for vegetable consumption (5.5%).

Eating more fruits and vegetables increases intake of essential nutrients and reduces the risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Fruits and vegetables also help manage body weight when eaten instead of more energy-dense foods, note the report authors, Dr. Latetia V. Moore, of the CDC, and Dr. Frances E. Thompson, of the National Cancer Institute.

For their analysis, the authors used data for 2013 from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS – which in 2013 covered 373,580 respondents – is an ongoing, state-based telephone survey of US adults that collects data on a number of health-related areas, including food and disease.

The survey asks people questions about the types of fruits and vegetables they eat and how frequently they eat them. The categories include: 100% fruit juice, whole fruit, dried beans, dark green vegetables, orange vegetable and other vegetables.

The authors compared the responses to the nationally recommended guidelines which state that adults who engage in less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily should consume 1.5-2.0 cup equivalents of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. (Adults who are more physically active may be able to consume more to match their increased calorie needs.)

Because of changes to how the survey was done and the types of questions it asks, it is not possible to compare the results with those of previous years, say the report authors.

They note that during 2007-10, half of the US population consumed under 1 cup of fruits and under 1.5 cups of vegetables a day: 76% did not meet recommendations for fruit intake, and 87% did not meet vegetable intake recommendations.

The impression is that Americans appear to be stuck at a low level of fruit and vegetable consumption as the report concludes:

Substantial new efforts are needed to build consumer demand for fruits and vegetables through competitive pricing, placement and promotion in child care, schools, grocery stores, communities and worksites.”

The American Heart Association include the following among their tips for increasing daily intake of fruits and vegetables:

  • Fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables
  • All produce counts: canned, dried, fresh and frozen
  • Compare food labels on canned, dried and frozen fruits and vegetables and choose the lowest sodium and added sugar content
  • Add a fruit or vegetable salad to lunch or dinner
  • Eat raw vegetable sticks instead of chips
  • Carry dried fruit, such as raisins, dates or dried apricots for snacks
  • Add chopped vegetables like onions, garlic and celery when preparing soup, stew, beans, rice and sauces
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