How Many Americans Really Eat Enough Fruits And Vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables are vital for a healthy diet. Of course, this is no surprise to any of us, as it has been drilled into our heads since youth, and rightfully so. Fruits and vegetables offer a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also a valuable source of fiber, which is a carbohydrate which most people are lacking (per Advances in Nutrition).

With all of this in mind, it is no surprise that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps to protect against high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. It can also relieve constipation, improve eye health, and promote weight loss. While the evidence is less certain than for hypertension and cardiovascular disease, eating some types of fruits and vegetables may even lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cancers (per Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).

In fact, a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day have a 53% lower mortality rate and live almost three years longer than people who have none.

But how many people actually take advantage of this?

Most Americans don't eat enough fruits and vegetables

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only around 9% of American adults meet the federal recommendations of eating at least 1.5 or 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day. Men, young adults, and adults living in poverty are particularly likely to eat less than the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.

Teens don't do any better, with only 2% meeting vegetable intake recommendations and 7.1% meeting fruit intake recommendations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that teen girls between the ages of 14 and 18 eat at least 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables, and that boys in the same age group eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables per day. Unfortunately, the CDC found that teenagers only eat an average of one fruit and one vegetable per day.

Children do a little better than teens and adults when it comes to fruit, with 40% meeting recommendations, but just as poorly when it comes to vegetables (per CDC).

On the bright side, the USDA notes that Americans eat more fruits and vegetables now than they did in the 1970s. Now, all we need to do is keep that progress going.