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The Importance of Consuming Fruit and Vegetables

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Throughout history, fruits and vegetables were identified as an important component in any diet. This is mainly due to the fact that they provide a wide range of nutrients that are required for the healthy development and maintenance of the body.

Fruits and vegetables are known for their concentration of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in addition to being a great source of dietary fiber 1.

Benefits of eating fruit

These vitamins, minerals and fiber provide a plethora of health benefits. Burkitt and Trowell released a large amount of publications on the “fiber hypothesis” during the early 1970s. This hypothesis states the importance of higher intakes of fiber and how it can protect against a wide range of Western diseases 2.

Fruits also contain sugars and fibers, such as pectin. In addition, fruits are also recommended as a source of vitamin C and potassium. Leaves and stems are richer in proteins but contains less sugars than fruits whereas roots and tubers are great sources of energy.

When consumed daily in sufficient amounts, fruits and vegetables can help prevent major diseases. These includes cardiovascular diseases and specific types of cancers as well. Studies conducted in the Netherlands identified that the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables associated with a 34% decrease in chronic heart diseases in people when compared to those with lower consumption of fruits and vegetables 3.

When consumed daily in sufficient amounts, fruits and vegetables can help prevent major diseases.

To determine whether Australians were consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) conducted the largest survey of its kind ever conducted in Australia, to produce the “Fruit, Vegetable and Diet Score Report” in 2016. Alarmingly, the study found that “one in two (51 per cent) adults are not eating the recommended intake of fruit, while two out of three adults (66 per cent) are not eating enough vegetables”. These results are especially shocking for a country that produces local high quality fruits and vegetables all year around.

So how much fruits and vegetables should we consume? The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends 2 serves of fruits and 5 serves of vegetables per day for adults and 3 serves of fruit and 4 serves of vegetable for children aged between 12 and 17. For children aged below 12, the recommended amounts include 1 serving of fruit and 2-3 servings of vegetables. A serve of vegetables in this context is defined as a cup of salad or cooked vegetables of approximately 75 grams. A serve of fruit is defined as approximately 150 grams of fresh fruit or 50 grams of dried fruit excluding any fruit juices 4.

Benefits of eating vegetables

Disability adjusted life years, or DALYs, is a measure of the potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 16 million DALYs and 1.7 million deaths globally are associated with low fruit and vegetable consumption.

Data from the World Health Organization further shows that 14% of all gastrointestinal cancer deaths, 11% of ischemic heart disease deaths and 9% of deaths related to stroke is due to the insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables 5.

Therefore, paying attention to what you eat and making sure the recommended daily allowances of fruits and vegetables are met in your life will ensure you are healthy and free from diseases allowing you to live your life to the fullest.

Inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption over the years

2004/05 2007/08 2012 2014/15
Inadequate vegetable intake (total) 86.1% 91.2% 91.9% 92.9%
Inadequate fruit intake (total) 46.1% 48.7% 51.6% 50.2%
Inadequate vegetable intake (males) 87.9% 92.7% 92.9% 96.2%
Inadequate fruit intake (males) 52.1% 53.9% 56.4% 56.0%
Inadequate vegetable intake (females) 84.2% 89.9% 90.6% 89.8%
Inadequate fruit intake (females) 40.2% 43.6% 46.7% 44.6%

– Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Health Survey 2014/15.

References

  1. Slavin, J. L., & Lloyd, B. (2012). Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables. Advances in Nutrition, 3(4), 506–516. http://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.002154
  2. Slavin JL. Dietary fiber: classification, chemical analyses, and food sources. J Am Diet Assoc. 1987;87:1164–71
  3. Oude Griep LM, Gelejinse JM, Kronhout D, Ocke MC, Verschuern WM. Raw and processed fruit and vegetable consumption and 10-year coronary heart disease incidence in a population-based cohort study in the Netherlands. PLoS ONE. 2010;5:e13609.
  4. Daily intake of fruit and vegetables, 4338.0 – Profiles of Health, Australia, 2011-13, LATEST ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/06/2013
  5. Who.int. (2018). WHO | Promoting fruit and vegetable consumption around the world. [online] Available at: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/fruit/en/index2.html [Accessed 9 Jan. 2018].
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