5 A Day or Maybe More!

August 02, 2017
(Previously published in 2015.)

One of my favorite things about summer is the availability of a large variety of fresh, in-season local farm grown fruits and vegetables.  While I do not have a garden for several reasons, you will find me at the farmer’s market early each Saturday morning during the summer.  The market is a bustling place with fruits and veggies so fresh in appearance that you can be assured that they were picked within the past 24 hours.  With all of the fruits and vegetables available in the summertime I have no trouble finding my favorites that I miss during the winter.

The recommendation to eat five to nine fruits and vegetables a day has been with us for many years.  A diet rich in a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables has been found to increase the intake of essential nutrients and reduces the risk for many chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke and some cancers. When replacing more energy-dense foods, fruits and vegetables help individuals achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

A 2015 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that Americans are not meeting the national recommendation for consumption of fruits and vegetables. An on-going, state-based telephone survey of US adults collects data on a number of health related ares, including food and disease. Data from survey questions on the types of fruits and vegetables consumed show that only 13.1 percent of American adults eat enough fruits while only 8.9 percent eat enough vegetables. The survey categories for fruits and vegetables include 100 percent fruit juice, whole fruit, dried beans, dark green, orange and other vegetables. The percentage of survey respondents living in each of the Southeastern Synod states meeting federal fruit and vegetable intake recommendations is:

                        Fruit     Vegetables
Alabama         9.5%              7.1%   
Georgia         11.7%              8.1%
Mississippi      9.9%              5.5%
Tennessee      7.5%              6.2%

Tennessee ranks last for all states for intake of fruits while Mississippi ranks last for all states for intake of vegetables.

We know that many individuals do not have adequate knowledge regarding nutrition, the ability to produce a garden or the means to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables even when in season. A high-fat, high-caloric diet is often cheaper, more easily accessible and more filling than more expensive produce.

While we need to look at our own daily consumption of fruits and vegetables we also need to find ways to share our abundance with others in our community. If you grow a garden that produces more than you can eat, local food pantries welcome fresh fruits and vegetables to share with those who need assistance in finding enough to eat. A donation of canned goods or dollars to local food banks will go a long way toward helping those who cannot afford adequate nutrition. In addition, The American Heart Association gives us the following tips for increasing our daily intake of fruits and vegetables:

     Fill at least one-half of 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 in 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.
     Try green vegetable smoothies to pack a lot of nutrition into a small container
     Try a variety of ways to cook vegetables; sautéing, roasting, steaming, grilling

Fruits and vegetables are truly part of God’s Work, Our Hands!  Thank God for His abundance given to us this summer! 

American Heart Association, Eat More Fruits and Vegetables, http://www.heart.org, Updated
     February 21, 2017
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR),    
     Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations, United States, July 10, 2015,   
     64 (26); 709-713 

Connie Pearson, RN, MN, Chair
Health Ministries Task Force