Fruit and vegetable intake in the US leaves a lot to be desired
You’ve all heard me teach about the bone-enhancing value of our Alkaline for Life® diet, an eating plan high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices. Specifically, we suggest consuming 13 half-cup servings of these types of foods each day. This is more than the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits per day.
One would hope that the average person would fall somewhere between the Alkaline for Life recommendations and the 2020 Dietary Guidelines recommendations — which got me thinking: How much of these life-supporting vegetables and fruits and do Americans actually consume?
Americans aren’t meeting the minimum intake of fruits and vegetables
My first path of inquiry was to look at my home state, New York, to see what was going on. I was taken aback by recent data from the State of New York reporting that more than 37.4% of the state’s adults consumed less than one fruit and 22.1% less than one vegetable a day—well below even the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, and nowhere close to what I recommend for bone health.
But before we get too hard on the good people of New York State, let me say that the New York data aren’t that different from the rest of the country. Nearly 40% of all adults in the U.S. consume fruit less than once daily — and more than 22% eat NO vegetables daily!
How too few plant foods impact health
The health implications of this deficiency are staggering — and not just for bones. World-wide studies on vegetable and fruit intake go well beyond their bone benefits. For example, one large, recent study found that consuming 800 grams of vegetables and fruits a day reduced the risk for cardiovascular disease by 28% and total mortality by 31%. This translates into consuming 6 to 7 half-cup servings of vegetables and 2 to 3 fruits each day — less than I recommend, but more than the recommendations put forth by the U.S. government.
A series of studies in Europe found that consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains was associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and strokes.
I should mention at this point that even the health-conscious folks who consume an abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds may not be getting adequate nutrition, as there is still a serious concern about the decreasing nutrient content of our foods. The last 45 years has witnessed an alarming decrease in nutrient content of common fruits and vegetables. It is very likely that we have to eat more vegetables and fruits to get the same level of nutrients that we got from these foods 45 years ago.
How do you know if you’re consuming enough fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds?
For just about anyone, it’s a good idea from time to time to step back and look carefully at how we’re living life compared to what we know is life-supporting. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that for many of us in the U.S., consumption of vegetables and fruits is pretty far below what our bodies need.
Here at the Center for Better Bones, we have long promoted the Alkaline for Life® diet high in vegetables and fruits. This high mineral, high antioxidant diet helps preserve bone and muscle, boost immunity and reduce chronic disease risk.
A simple way to assess the adequacy of your vegetable and fruit intake is by testing your first-morning urine pH. If your pH is optimal, you are likely consuming adequate vegetables and fruits. Should you want guidance, our “Alkaline Diet Starter Kit” has everything you need.
We all need to increase our intake of whole natural vegetables, fruits, nut and seeds. Try to get to 9 servings, then work to achieve 13 servings per day. If you want some ideas, you might look at my list of 99+ Ways to Get 9 Daily Servings of Alkalizing Vegetables, Fruits, and Spices.
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a clinical nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and motivational speaker. Learn my time-tested 6 step natural approach to bone health in my online courses.