Do you think that having more access to fruit and vegetables automatically increases the likelihood of increasing consumption of these super-healthy foods?
I don’t remember how many times I had conversations about nutrition with research experts or friends when I was living in Australia or visiting the United States and discovered that they thought that in Latin America we have a high consumption of fruits and vegetables because they are readily available.
It is amazing how assumptions so easily change our perception of reality. It is one thing to think that since most Latin American countries have a great availability of a huge diversity of fruits and vegetables all year round, Latin Americans consume them. What we do in real life is another matter.
In the last year or so since the COVID-19 pandemic began, my mother and I officially started a public health initiative to provide access to whole foods and plant-based lifestyle education to Spanish speakers around the world. At the time of writing, we have delivered 40 live online nutrition courses of 10-12 hours and more than 1700 people have completed them in their entirety. We had participation from different countries, mainly from (in order of participation): Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina and the United States. We asked them a lot of questions to find out their beliefs about nutrition. In a section of the nutrition course, we gave them access to the 4Leaf survey.
Unfortunately, I have to say that I was surprised by the results I saw weekend after weekend. I couldn’t believe how little fruit and vegetables we eat. Even more worryingly, the respondents were invited to participate in a nutrition course. Just by introducing themselves, they showed a real interest in nutrition. I cannot imagine what the other part of the population (not interested in nutrition) actually eats.Even more worryingly, the respondents were invited to participate in a nutrition course.
In this article I would like to share some of the conclusions of the first two questions of the 4Leaf survey conducted with the participants of the nutrition course. Prepare to be as surprised as I was when I read these responses to the same audience that had just completed the survey. At first I thought “this can’t be real”, “maybe I’ve got the wrong audience!”, but later, after teaching 34 courses, I realised the sad reality that we have to accept: we simply don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables.
The first question concerns fresh fruit: On average, how many servings of fresh whole fruit do you eat per day? (Fruit juice does not count; it is not a whole plant). The options were: none, 1-2, 3-4 and 5+. Only 5% of the population eats more than five portions. More than half (57%) of the respondents eat only one (45%) or no fruit (12%) a day. Based on the concerns expressed by people throughout these courses, I understand why so many people do not eat the recommended servings of fruit (5 servings per day). There are so many unverified beliefs about carbohydrates, “too much sugar”, “my doctor forbids me this or that”, “my nutritionist says they make me fat” and so on. It is time to put an end to this nonsense and become informed about the real value and power of these whole foods, perfectly created by nature and for nature to nourish and flourish from (and in case you have any doubts, “you” are also part of this nature that needs the fruits).