Believing in fresh produce is enough

Believing in fresh produce is enough

What are the irrefutable, science-proven benefits of eating fruits and vegetables?

Can eating that extra serving of broccoli have a measurable dividend in a lower risk of cancer?

And does it really matter, as long as consumers are “convicted” that eating fresh produce is one of the best things they can do for their health?

These are some of the questions I thought of after reading a piece in The Seattle Times headlined, “Do you believe you can reduce cancer risk with food?

The story cited a recent survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) on the attitudes of Generation X about the role of diet and lifestyle in cancer prevention, and what that means to their diet choices.

From the story:

"The surveyed Gen Xers believe two of the top difference-makers are regular, sustained physical activity and a diet high in fruits and vegetables. 

Nearly half of all Gen Xers surveyed said that whether a food or beverage might reduce their risk of developing cancer plays a role in their purchase decisions — but so does reducing risk of heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.

More than half of Gen Xers who prioritize cancer prevention say they eat a much different diet than they did 10 years ago, although 75 percent of participants say that their diet is generally better than it was a decade ago.

A cancer-preventive diet is rich in nutrients from food. In fact, the AICR recommends that we don’t use supplements to try to protect against cancer, in part because our bodies absorb nutrients in their complete food “packages” better than in isolated nutrients found in supplements. To get these nutrients, we need to eat more plant foods, but what “more plants” means can be a matter of some confusion.

For example, 35 percent of Gen Xers surveyed believe a plant-based diet is one that emphasizes minimally processed foods that come from plants, with limited consumption of animal meat, eggs and dairy; another 32 percent believe a plant-based diet to be a vegan diet in which you avoid all animal products, including eggs and dairy."

The author, nutritionist Carrie Dennett, said not all consumers have the same clear-cut judgment on food choices. She writes:

"Interestingly, the survey results suggest that people with lower incomes have poorer health, are less familiar with plant-based diets, are less likely to believe that food choices can affect cancer risk, and subsequently are less likely to of choose foods based on their cancer-preventive properties. Does higher income make it easier to stay healthy, and people who are already healthy find it easier to believe that their personal actions and behaviors make a difference? That’s an important question."

TK: None of us can guarantee ourselves a future free from cancer or other dread diseases, but most of us believe that choosing healthful foods like fruits and vegetables can move the needle of fate.

It might be that the sense of control of our health destiny we have through the choice of a salad over a quarter-pounder, for example, is overly ambitious. Does it matter?  With aging Boomers and Xers looking to take better care of their bodies, the plant-based eating trend appears to be here to stay.

Believing that our personal actions and behaviors can make a difference is enough.