The Department of Health has focused its nutrition program on vegetable consumption as its response to food consumption surveys conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) that showed the average Filipino has been eating less and less vegetables per day in the past 30 years.
According to the survey, the Filipinos eat only two servings of vegetables a day or an average of about 110 grams per day which decreased from the 145-gram intake per day as what a survey in 1978 revealed.
Moreover, the World Health Organization has reported that low intake of fruits and vegetables are responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people around the world.
Another survey undertaken by the FNRI in 2008 revealed that infants who are 6-11 months old are fed only 2 grams of vegetables per day while 1 year olds are fed eight grams; adolescents aged 13-19 consumed 69 grams, adults who are 20-59 years consumed 91 grams, while older persons 60 years and above, consumed 87 grams only; and pregnant women consumed only 91 grams while lactating women ate 101 grams per day.
In view of this, last year, the National Nutrition Council of the DOH kicked off its nationwide Nutrition Month celebration with the theme, “Pagkain ng gulay ugaliin, araw-araw itong ihain!”.
The NCC has encouraged families, schools and communities to put up vegetable gardens to ensure that there is a continous supply of fresh and nutritious vegetables to increase the vegetables intake of Filipino children to 3 servings per day to address the problem of malnutrition.
As its contribution to solving malnutrition among children, especially school pupils, the Department of Education issued a memorandum to all schools to plant vegetables in the school gardens to encourage pupils to eat vegetables.
Filipinos should eat more vegetables because of their proven health benefits, health authorities said in promoting the consumption of three or more servings of vegetables each day, especially indigenous vegetables such as malunggay, saluyot, kangkong, kamote tops and ampalaya to curb malnutrition among Filipino children.
Vegetables have been found to be low in fat but are rich sources of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, folate (folic acid) and vitamins A, E and C.
Food scientists say that potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Dietary fiber from vegetables helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower risk of heart disease. Folate (folic acid) helps the body form healthy red blood cells.
Health authorities also say that vegetables contain many antioxidants which help protect the body from stress, diseases and cancers as well as help boost our immune system.
Vegetables are also packed with soluble as well as insoluble dietary fiber, substances that help prevent hemorrhoids, colon cancer, chronic constipation and rectal fissure.
The World Health Organization has recommended eating a minimum of 400 grams of vegetables per person per day, or equivalent to five servings of vegetables.#