How many people have realized the importance of eating fruits and vegetables? Possibly, many. But how many people are actually eating them? According to the CDC (1), only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables and more than 95% of Indonesia's total population who are more than five years old, do not eat enough fruits and vegetables (2). What a small number!
Wait, how serious is this?
What is the health impact of not eating enough fruits and vegetables? World Health Organization stated, "Poor dietary habits have been identified as one of the leading contributors for a range of NCDs (non-communicable diseases, such as stroke, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. The latest analysis of the global burden of disease estimated that diets low in fruits and low in vegetables were responsible for 1.8 and 3.4 million deaths, respectively, in 2013." (3) So, not eating enough fruits and vegetables is a serious business.
Why don't most people eat enough fruits and vegetables?
My Plate, the food guidelines in America, and Isi Piringku, the food guidelines in Indonesia, are an eating guide for people to follow. Both of the guidelines suggest that half of our plate should be filled up with fruits and vegetables. But why is a massive percentage of people not following the guidelines? There could be many reasons. One possible reason is the continuous rise and growth of junk food and highly processed foods.
These foods might be more palatable to many in comparison to fruits and vegetables. The high salt, oil, and sugar content are making us addicted to these foods and less likely to enjoy the natural flavor of fruits and vegetables. (4) And this will lead to a higher rate of strokes, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension. (5) And so it becomes your personal choice, either you want to follow the big food business marketing, or to be smart and eat your fruits and veggies.
So, how can I increase my intake of fruits and vegetables?
Once you know fruits and vegetables are good for you and want to start eating more, this is what you can do. Eat fruits and vegetables first before your main dish. In this way, you already make sure you eat fruits and vegetables. If you leave them at the end once you are full of your main dish, you might not eat them as much as suggested in the guidelines, which is half of your Plate.
Another tip is to start with fruits and veggies you like and make it familiar to your taste. Then, later on, you can move on to try some other kinds that might not be your favorite. By trying it several times, you may experience some adjustment in your own taste, and start liking more varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Eating enough fruits and vegetables will significantly decrease your risk of getting NCDs. However, it's not enough to only know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, but we have to eat them. Love them, and they will love you back!