Most Australians don’t meet World Health Organisation standards for vegetable consumption—and now research points to a lack of understanding about veggies’ nutritional benefits.
As a result, researchers from the University of Sydney are suggesting health benefit labelling might be the answer.
Although there are some notable exceptions – there was a high awareness uncovered in the study about some nutritional benefits of carrots (vision) and spinach (iron/energy) – using the carrot rather than the stick might help more people meet the guidelines of approximately five serves a day, says University of Sydney PhD candidate Reetica Rekhy.
The findings were published this month in Nutrition & Dietetics, by lead author Rekhy under supervision from Professor Robyn McConchie, who is a co-author of the paper.
Tips about how people can incorporate more vegetables into their diet are being promoted as part of National Nutrition Week (16 – 22 October 2016).
Rekhy, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, says although almost one in two Australians eat the recommended two serves of fruit daily, her survey of 1000 adults found only 6% of adults consumed the recommended serves of vegetables.
“Just knowing you should eat your veggies has not proven sufficient; consumption even in developed countries falls short of the daily intake recommended by the World Health Organisation,” she says.
“It’s possible that with labelling the health benefits of specific vegetables on retail packs, point of sale advertising and other marketing collateral, this could change.”
Although it is generally known that it is important to eat vegetables for health reasons, Rekhy says survey respondents did not have a good understanding about specific nutritional benefits of most vegetables.
Rekhy, an agri-food professional with 20 years’ experience who has just submitted her PhD thesis, says the basis for her thesis was the fact that appropriate vegetable consumption is crucial to reduce the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular conditions, cancers and obesity.
“Some of the most challenging consumers are children – my own experience is to hide it in the food, but also get them to understand that they’re eating delicious vegetables,” says Rekhy, who has a five-year-old.
As part of her work, Rekhy has done a review of the Veggycation website, which includes information for children and adults.
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends people eat two to eight serves of vegetables and legumes each day, based on age, physical activity levels and body size.