USDA Reported Trends in Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables

Although there is a strong campaign for Americans to eat fruits and vegetables, the Economic Research Service (ERS) noted that the total consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables have fallen from 299 pounds to 272 pounds per person within ten years. The study was conducted from 2003 to 2013. The widespread decline of eating fruits and vegetables can pose serious threats to overall health. This article will discuss the trends reported by the USDA regarding the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Potatoes Cause the Decline of Vegetable Consumption

The USDA observed a decline in the consumption of the total number of vegetables, which was driven by the reduced consumption of potatoes. Boys between the age of 2 and 19 consumed only 45.2 pounds in 2008 as opposed to the 63.7 pounds per person annually. So why is vegetable consumption affected by the decline of potato consumption? The reason probably is that potatoes, as a staple food for most American families, are often mixed with other vegetables. Although this data suggests a grim result, it also revealed that consumption of some vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower, and peppers have increased.

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Higher Income is Directly Correlated to Vegetable Consumption

Researchers observed that people from households with incomes below the poverty level consumed fewer vegetables than those above the poverty line. Education plays a crucial role in making healthy food choices. In the study, college-educated adults consumed 187.4 pounds of vegetables compared to those who only attained high school education (181.9 pounds). While the quality of education can affect the food choices of people, the trend is fueled by their economic power. The ability to afford more nutritious foods is higher for college-educated adults than those who only have a high school education.

Whole Fruit Consumption is Not Consistent for Demographic Groups

There is a decline in the consumption of orange juice across all demographic groups. However, the trend of whole fruit consumption is not compatible. This can be a problem since many consumers are not taking the recommended daily intake of fiber from fruits. It had declined from 71.9 pounds per person annually from 1998 to 65.4 pounds in 2008. Again, this can be attributed to the income status of a person as well as the cultural background.

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USDA Says Substitution is Becoming a Norm

Substituting the products is becoming evident among many consumers. For instance, many users use leafy greens like spinach or kale instead of lettuce.  While there is a decline in the consumption of citrus fruits, it has been found that most consumers prefer to eat berries instead. One of the reasons for this trend is that consumers are opting for ingredients that are healthier.

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USDA Says Obese People Can Lower Infection Risk With Grapes

More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese. This translates to 78.6 million people suffering from obesity in the country alone. Obesity has become an epidemic in the U.S. and even in developing countries. Obesity is associated with different kinds of diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension to name a few. Moreover, obese individuals also have a higher risk of developing different types of infection that can further lower their immunity.


The Benefits of Grapes for Obese People

Obesity robs people from living quality lives. But with simple lifestyle changes, overweight people may be able to improve their conditions. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed that eating grapes can help people with obesity problems by decreasing harmful fats in their bloodstream that are associated with heart disease. The regular consumption of grapes can help lower the risk of infection for their overall health improvement.

But what makes grapes beneficial to the body? According to a molecular biologist, Susan Zunino from the Agricultural Research Service, grapes contains high amounts of phytochemicals. These are compounds naturally found in fruits like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries.  These phytochemicals have positive effects on the body such as improving the condition of the immune system in people who suffer from obesity.

Grapes are one of the fruits with the highest levels of antioxidants like vitamin C, manganese, carotenoids, resveratrol, and stilbenes. Both the seeds and skins of grapes have a high concentration of antioxidants, so eating the whole fruit is necessary for capturing all of the antioxidants.

There are a lot of pro-inflammatory molecules also known as free radicals in our bodies and eating phytochemical-rich fruits can help lower the production of such particles. These include the interleukins and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). The ability of grapes to reduce inflammatory allows the body to heal itself naturally.


Study Shows the Power of Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Hospital documentation suggests that obese people have higher chances of developing viral or bacterial infection after surgery. In fact, 35% of Americans who sought hospitalization developed some infection after their hospital stay.

The study proved that the power of grapes in treating obese patients is simply remarkable. Researchers divided the participants into two groups and gave the participants a mixture of grape powder and water while the other group received nothing but a placebo for three weeks.

Based on the blood samples obtained from the participants, those who drank the grape mixture have better blood lipid profile, inflammation markers, and immune system compared to those who have taken the placebo mixture. Consumption of grapes lowers the concentration of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which is also dubbed as the bad cholesterol and is associated with heart disease. Another remarkable thing about eating grapes is that it can stimulate the production of cytokines which are proteins that help fight off the infection in the body.

While consuming fruits like grapes can lower inflammation in the body, further studies need to be conducted to understand the mechanisms behind why the consumption of grapes can have beneficial effects on patients suffering from obesity.

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New Dietary Guidelines Suggest 20% Reduction in Sugar

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced a drastic cut down on sugar. New dietary guidelines suggest a 20% drop in consumption of sugar-based calories.

The USDA and HHS added yet another diet restriction to the Dietary Guidelines that are renewed every five years. With an aim of reducing obesity and chronic diseases, the new diet rule seeks to limit the amount of sugar Americans have in food and beverages. Studies state that the average American consumes 270 sugar-based calories (or more than 13% of calories) on a daily basis.

Following the guidelines would mean a 60 calories reduction and on a national average, the numbers will go as high as 2.2 tonnes of sugar and corn syrup. Here’s how the implementation of the dietary guidelines will work out.

New Dietary Guidelines for Consumers

USDA Dietary Guidelines 2015 2020 SugarAs a step towards tackling the problem of obesity and health related issues, the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines draw attention to not just sugar, but caloric content of added sweeteners in food and beverage as well. The fitness-oriented consumer has a lot to gain regarding a better handle on diet plans. However, consumers will now have to be extra cautious about their purchases. Although limiting sugar intake helps consumer health goals, reading through product labels will become a challenge to the authenticity of alternatives. Meanwhile, health advocates believe that very few Americans will abide by the dietary guidelines.


Impact on Manufacturers

FDA New Nutrition Label 2016

On top of the new sugar guidelines, the FDA is proposing a new nutrition label for food products.

Introducing a decline in sugar consumption has a direct link with losses incurred by an entire industry dedicated to food and beverage manufacturers, especially soda and candy brands. On a larger scale, sugar and corn companies are in for a major setback. Manufacturers are beginning to react to the dietary guidelines in their own way. Just recently, The Sugar Association that represents several manufacturing companies dismissed the guidelines claiming that it has its basis in “weak science”. The American Beverage Association has funded multiple initiatives to fight tax and labelling laws. Coca-Cola took a different route and began promoting exercise regimes over diet plans for fitness. On the other hand, companies like Cargill have created low-sugar and non-sugar alternatives.

For the guidelines to be successful, the U.S government will have to conduct a lot more research and bring more awareness of sugar content on food labels.

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