Health and nutrition professionals emphasize diets rich in fruits and vegetables can optimize good health and significantly reduce the rate of diet-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and the overall incidence of cancer by 20%, resulting in reduced health care costs and increased life expectancy. To encourage the consumption of more fruits and vegetables, the folks at Kaiser Permanente developed the color palette and table below to help people associate fruits and vegetables of different colors with nutrients, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that can contribute to greater health.
So why is this important, and why is the Virginia Farm to Table Plan emphasizing the consumption and production of more fresh, nutritious whole foods in Virginia? Virginia has the opportunity to enhance local and regional food systems to improve health outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, and address potential economic leakage in communities due to lost productivity.
In the past ten years, the prevalence of obesity in Virginia increased from 19.3 to 25.5% of the population.
Even though this obesity rate is lower than in many other states, the rapid growth and prevalence of chronic diet-related illnesses is costing us lives, quality of life and economic prosperity. In 2006, the total cost of diabetes for people in Virginia was estimated at $4.4 billion (American Diabetes Association, 2008; 2011).
How has this crisis developed in Virginia and the U.S. through the years? Americans eat 523 more calories per day and consume 10 times more refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup than in 1970. Today, diets are generally high in saturated fats and salt, inadequate in dietary fiber, and have low amounts of complex carbohydrates. At the same time we now spend over 16% of our earned income on health care; therefore, it is important to reevaluate and improve our diets for healthier communities and healthier local economies.
If you would like color to your fruit and vegetable palette, please refer to the seasonality calendar to check on local availability.