Those who recognize '5-A-Day' message eat the most fruits and vegetables

November 02, 2001

People who know they should eat more fruits and vegetables daily, like the taste and feel confident that they can easily include these foods in their diets, are more likely to eat the recommended five servings a day, according to a new study.

For others, providing recipes that make fruits and vegetables seem more attractive and stressing the weight control benefits might help increase consumption.

Lead author Mary Ann S. Van Duyn, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., and her colleagues report in the November issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion on why some people eat fruits and vegetables more often than others do.

For one thing, those who most frequently eat fruits and vegetables are aware of, and believe in, the health benefits of these foods. They also know that at least five servings a day are required to reap maximum benefit - a message conveyed by the National Cancer Institute's "5 A Day for Better Health" campaign.

High consumers, the investigators found, are also less likely to perceive barriers to meeting the "5 A Day" goal. They are more likely to see themselves as capable of increasing fruit and vegetable intake both at and away from home and less likely to be put off by the cost, availability and preparation time.

Other hallmarks of those who eat more fruits and vegetables are the simple enjoyment of the taste of fruits and vegetables and a conscious effort to increase eating healthful foods.

These and other findings emerged from a nationwide telephone survey of 2,605 adults analyzed by Van Duyn and her colleagues. Drawing upon current models of health behavior, the investigators examined background information such as age and gender, probed psychosocial factors such as awareness of the health benefits of fruits and vegetables and perceived barriers to consuming them, and then roughly estimated daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.

At the same time, the investigators classified how far each person had come in his or her efforts to eat more fruits and vegetables.

According to Van Duyn, the research provides "insights relevant to the design of [dietary behavior] intervention programs" - insights that could get participants thinking about the benefits of fruits and vegetables, then assist them in changing their food choices.

For example, providing recipes and other preparation tips that make fruits and vegetables seem more attractive and available could help raise the intakes of low consumers. Van Duyn notes that communicating "the benefits of long-term health and weight control related to fruit and vegetable consumption may be particularly important for men," whose consumption patterns appeared to be more strongly affected by this knowledge than those of women.
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Funding for the study was provided by the National Cancer Institute.

The American Journal of Health Promotion is a bimonthly peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the field of health promotion. For information about the journal call (248) 682-0707 or visit the journal's website at www.healthpromotionjournal.com.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health http://www.cfah.org. For more research news and information, go to our special section devoted to health and behavior in the "Peer-Reviewed Journals" area of Eurekalert!, http://www.eurekalert.org/restricted/reporters/journals/cfah/. For information about the Center, call Ira Allen, iallen@cfah.org (202) 387-2829.

Center for Advancing Health

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