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Title: Progress toward increasing intake of dietary nutrients from vegetables and fruits: The case for a greater role for the horticultural sciences

item Simon, Philipp

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/9/2013
Publication Date: 2/1/2014
Publication URL:
Citation: Simon, P.W. 2014. Progress toward increasing intake of dietary nutrients from vegetables and fruits: The case for a greater role for the horticultural sciences. HortScience. 49(2):112-115.

Interpretive Summary: Vegetables and fruits are high monetary value crops and they are the major sources of essential dietary nutrients, several of which are consumed at levels considered to be too low according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Furthermore, vegetables and fruits contain other non-essential nutrients, called phytonutrients, which contribute positively to human health in reducing chronic diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. More than half of the U.S. population (as well those in other countries) suffer from these diet-related chronic diseases, not to mention the growing incidence of obesity reported. The economic toll that the underconsumption of vegetables and fruits takes in terms of health care costs is very large. Consequently the 2010 guidelines suggest Americans should be eating at least twice as many servings of vegetables and fruits. In spite of the widely publicized benefits of eating more vegetables and fruits, per capita consumption has not risen in the last decade, and may have fallen slightly. To help stimulate vegetable and fruit intake, several approaches have been taken by horticulturists including breeding for more desirable flavor and for convenience, development of new vegetable and fruit products, and expansion of “local” and organic agriculture production to better educate a population that has little connection to agriculture. Greater collaboration with health professionals, nutritionists, marketing specialists and social scientists with horticulturists has been proposed to identify expanded approaches to stimulate the consumption of vegetables and fruits. This review will be of interest to horticulturists, plant breeders, and social scientists.

Technical Abstract: Diet is implicated globally in the cause and severity of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, and a large body of medical evidence indicates that consumption of healthier foods can alleviate both the incidence and severity of not only these diseases, but also obesity, which is a causal factor for many chronic diseases. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicated that several nutrients are underconsumed in the United States, including folate, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K. Vegetables and fruits are major sources of several of these micronutrients and minerals as well as many other phytonutrients. Despite these health benefits, vegetable and fruit intake by U.S. consumers is significantly lower than recommended by dietary guidelines (less than 40% of recommended intake) and has not risen in the past decade. Collaborations between horticultural plant breeders, production and postharvest scientists with food scientists, nutritionists, medical scientists, marketing specialists, and social scientists are needed to develop plans and take action to stimulate increased vegetable and fruit intake. Increased intake may have a positive impact not only on the health of consumers, but would also increase the economic value of horticultural commodities and raise the profile of horticultural sciences. Horticultural approaches to address this important challenge, and opportunity, must be developed.