Southeastern Synod ELCA

Fruits and Vegetables - God's Work, Our Hands!

Cornelia Pearson - August 12, 2019

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 favorites that I miss during other seasons.
 
The recommendation to eat 1.5 - 2 cups of fruit a day and 2 - 3 cups of 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 vitamins, minerals and fiber and reduces the risk for many chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. When replacing more energy-dense foods, fruits, and vegetables help individuals achieve and maintain healthy body weight.
 
A 2015 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that despite the above recommendations, only 1 in 10 US adults eats the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. An on-going, state-based telephone survey of US adults collects data on a number of health-related areas, including food and disease. On types of fruits and vegetables that individuals eat, data shows that only 12.2 percent of American adults eat enough fruits while only 9.3 percent eat enough vegetables. The survey categories for fruits and vegetables include whole fruit, dried beans, dark green, orange, and other vegetables. One-hundred percent fruit juice and potatoes were not included in the fruit/vegetable choices due to the sugar content of these items. Data from the states in the Southeastern Synod States (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee) show that individuals in these states consume fewer fruits and vegetables than the overall percentage for American adults.  Tennessee ranks last for all states on consumption of fruits and second from the bottom for consumption of vegetables.  Mississippi ranks last for consumption 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-calorie 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, your local food pantry may be eager to receive the excess to share with those who need assistance. A donation of canned goods or dollars to the food pantry will go a long way toward helping those who cannot afford adequate nutrition.
 
The American Heart Association gives us the following tips for increasing daily intake of fruits and vegetables:
  • Fill at least one-half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • All produce counts: fresh, canned, dried, 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, bell peppers, spinach, kale, and celery when preparing soup, stew, beans, rice, and sauces.  These foods can also be added to eggs or potatoes.
  • Put vegetables such as cucumber, sprouts, tomato, lettuce or avocado on your sandwich.
  • Try green vegetable smoothies to pack a lot of nutrition into a small container.
  • Try creative ways to cook vegetables; sautéing, roasting, steaming, grilling; for better health, skip frying.
 
Fruits and vegetables are truly part of God’s Work, Our Hands!  Thank God for His abundance given to us this summer! 
 
References:
American Heart Association, Eat More Fruits and Vegetables, http://www.heart.org. Update
February 21, 2017
Center 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. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2018. Atlanta, GA.
 
Cornelia Pearson, MN, RN, Chair
Health Ministries Task Force
 
Photo by Ron Beagle, Photographer
Franklin Farmer’s Market, Franklin, TN
Member of St. Andrew Lutheran Church. Franklin, TN