Pinoys are consuming less vegetables and fruits in the past 37 years

A report from the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) revealed that there is a gradual decreasing trend in the consumption of fruits and vegetables in the Philippines in the past 37 years.

According to the 2015 Updating Survey by the DOST-FNRI, the mean one-day per capita intake of vegetables in the Philippines was 123 grams, slightly higher than the 2013 per capita intake of 114 grams. However, this is much lower than the mean per capita intake in 1978 at 145 grams which has been the highest reported per capita intake of vegetables.

The trend is even more apparent in the per capita intake of fruits which was 37 grams in 2015, almost three-fold lower than the per capita intake in 1978 at 104 grams according to DOST-FNRI. The highest reported per capita intake was 107 grams in 1987 but has since steadily declined over the last three decades.

Moreover, the combined per capita intakes of fruits and vegetables are much lower than the recommended intake by the World Health Organization (WHO) of 400 grams.

Low intake of fruits and vegetables has been linked to poor health and increased risk of non-communicable diseases and is among the top 10 risk factors contributing to global mortality. According to WHO, an estimated 5.2 million deaths worldwide were attributable to inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption in 2013.

Data from the Philippine Health Statistics 2008 showed that mortality trends for non-communicable diseases such as diseases of the heart and cancers have also been increasing from 1958 to 2008.

However, the Department of Trade and Industry reported that while there has been a general decline in the local consumption of fruits and vegetables, there is an increasing trend in the demand for fruits and vegetables for exports with an average yearly growth of about seven percent (7%) for the processed products from 2006-2010. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there has also been a general increase in total crop production by volume which included fruits and vegetables namely banana, pineapple, mango, tomato, garlic, onion, cabbage, eggplant and calamansi.

Thus, there is a need to promote fruits and vegetable consumption at the local level through various medium such as backyard and school gardening. There should also be support for local farmers to improve production and produce better quality foods but with lower prices. We can also push for innovative nutrition education on the benefits of fruits and vegetables such as mainstream advertising in addition to conventional methods.

Message No.3 of the 2012 Nutritional Guideline for Filipinos developed by a Technical Working Group led by the DOST-FNRI reminds us to “eat more vegetables and fruits everyday to get the essential vitamins, minerals and fiber for regulation of body processes. (Source: Charina A. Javier, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology)