Senator Tom Harkin
In a state as dedicated to agriculture as Iowa, it may come as a surprise to find out that most of us are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. In fact, a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) study shows that only 12.3 percent of Iowa's adults are eating the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. This ranks Iowa 12th lowest in the nation in the percentage of adults meeting these important nutritional goals.During the fall season, thousands of Iowans are undertaking the task of harvesting billions of bushels of corn and soybeans, as well as other fruits and vegetables. While we are feeding the world with these crops, it is important that we remember to eat these kinds of vitamin-enriched foods here at home.
According to the CDC, fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that may help protect from chronic diseases. Research shows that people who eat more fruit and vegetable servings as part of a healthy diet have reduced risk of stroke, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers.
While most produce is lower in calories and higher in fiber than other foods, the key to a healthier diet is eating fruits and vegetables of different colors. This variety gives your body a more comprehensive assortment of the nutrients it needs, like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C.
As the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, I authored the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in the 2002 farm bill. This program brings fresh fruits and vegetables to elementary schools so that students can choose these nutritious snacks over candy and other unhealthy food. Students, parents and teachers all report that the program has been a success. Because of this, in the Food, Conservation and Energy Act, the 2008 farm bill, we were able to expand the program nationwide.
While we can help students at schools, it is also important to eat well as adults. To ensure you're getting enough fruits and vegetables each day, visit the CDC's webpage at www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov to see the recommended intake for your lifestyle and body type. On average, most people need five servings of fruit and vegetables per day to experience the full benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.
The CDC also has some helpful hints to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, including:
* Stir low-fat or fat-free granola into a bowl of low-fat or fat-free yogurt. Top with sliced apples or frozen berries.
* Add vegetables, such as diced tomatoes and onions, to your egg or egg white omelet.
* Have some fruit as a midmorning snack.
* Make fruits and vegetables about half your plate.
* Munch on raw vegetables with a healthy low-fat or fat-free dip.
* Put grapes and banana slices on wooden skewers and freeze for "fruit on a stick."
* Add frozen vegetables to a casserole or pasta. Try broccoli, peas, and corn.
* Ask for more vegetable toppings (like broccoli and spinach) and less cheese on your pizza.
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