This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.
Americans think fruits and veggies suck. That, essentially, is the conclusion of a new CDC report which finds that the average American simply does not eat enough of the healthy stuff. And it’s not like the federal dietary recommendations are particularly burdensome; merely 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day are considered adequate for a healthy diet. Despite this, the vast majority of Americans fall short, preferring instead to lick donuts like Ariana Grande.
The CDC analyzed survey data from across all 50 states and DC to determine Americans’ fruit and veggie intake. (See charts below, adapted from CDC data.)
As shown above, only 13.1% and 8.9% of Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables, respectively. Additionally, two lessons are immediately visible in the data. First, people who live in the South eat the fewest fruits and veggies. (The nine states with the lowest fruit consumption are all southern states.) Second, Californians eat the most fruits and veggies. But they have no reason to brag: only 17.7% and 13% of Californians eat enough fruits and vegetables, respectively.
There has been much talk of so-called “food deserts” — places with few supermarkets selling fresh produce. These food deserts have been blamed, in part, for the American obesity epidemic. (Food deserts are a particular problem in the U.S. South.) However, this new data from the CDC throws into question just how much of an effect food deserts have on Americans’ dietary choices. Even states with fantastic access to fresh food, such as New York and California, still exhibit pathetically low rates of fruit and vegetable intake.
The reality, it seems, is that most Americans prefer to eat an unhealthy diet, even if other choices are available. As the cliche goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2013.” MMWR 64 (26): 709-713. July 10, 2015.