NUTRITION CORNER: Low vegetable, fruits intake among top 10 risk factors for global mortality: WHO

The National Nutrition Council of the Department of Health kicked off its nationwide Nutrition Month celebration last July 2, 2012 with the theme, “Pagkain ng gulay ugaliin, araw-araw itong ihain!”.

For its part, the Department of Education issued a memorandum to all schools to celebrate Nutrition Month with the planting of vegetables in the school gardens to promote consumption of vegetables among children in order to curb malnutrition and address the high incidence of non-communicable diseases in the country.

The focus on vegetable consumption is the DOH’s response to food consumption surveys conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) that showed the average Filipino eating less and less vegetables per day in the past 30 years.

The surveys showed that 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 recorded in 1978.

DOH Assistant Secretary Maria-Bernardita Flores said that the NCC aims to encourage families, schools and commu-nities 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 and reduce malnutrition.

“The NNC encourages everyone to consume three or more servings of vegetables each day,” she said.  “Let’s also eat our indigenous vegetables such as malunggay, saluyot, kangkong, kamote tops and ampalaya. Let us also plant vegetables in all possible places.”

The DOH said a report of the World Health Organization showed that low intake of fruits and vegetables are responsible for 1.7 million deaths around the world.

The 2008 survey of the FNRI showed that infants 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 con-sumed 69 grams, adults 20-59 years consumed 91 grams, while older persons 60 years and above, consumed 87 grams only, pregnant women con-sumed only 91 grams and lactating women ate 101 grams per day.

Health authorities said vegetables are low in fat but are rich in vitamins and minerals. All the green-yellow-orange vegetables are rich sources of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium,  beta-carotene, vitamin B-complex, vitamin-C, vitamin A and vitamin K.

Food scientists have en-couraged people to eat vege-tables for their proven health benefits. Many vegetables are low in calories and scientific studies showed that low calorie but nutrient rich foods help the body stay fit and disease free. Many antioxidants can be found in vegetables which the body needs to fight stress, diseases and cancers and help boost our immune system. Vegetables also contain soluble as well as insoluble dietary fiber that help prevent hemorrhoids, chronic constipation, rectal fissures and other.

The World Health Organiza-tion has recommended eating a minimum of 400 grams of vegetables and fruits per person per day, or equivalent to five servings of vegetables and three of fruits.#