According to a recent study, issuing “prescriptions” for fruits and vegetables improves health and reduces food insecurity. A new study found that writing prescription produce boosts intake and various health advantages.
You know the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, it turns out that might be more literal than we thought!
A groundbreaking new study is giving everyone, especially parents and those of you on a health-conscious or vegan journey, something exciting to talk about.
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What’s the Scoop with Prescription Produce?
The American Heart Association recently published a study in their well-respected journal, Circulation. Researchers followed people who were at a higher risk for heart problems and food insecurity. These people participated in “Produce Prescription Programs” for about six months.
What’s a Produce Prescription Program?
In Produce Prescription Programs, participants got electronic cards or vouchers. And guess what? These aren’t for medications; they’re for fruits and veggies!
You can use these cards to get free or discounted produce from local grocery stores or farmers’ markets.
People who took part in these programs actually ate more fruits and vegetables!
And this wasn’t just an “eat your greens, and you’ll feel better” kind of thing. We’re talking real, measurable improvements in health—better BMI, better blood sugar, and lower blood pressure.
Moreover, many of these people were less likely to struggle with food insecurity.
Over 3,800 people across nine different programs in the country were studied. A substantial number of them were kids—the average age was 9.
The adults in the study had an average age of 54. More than half of the households involved reported difficulty securing enough food. Each participant got about $63 per month to buy produce.
The results? Adults ended up eating almost an extra cup of fruits and veggies per day. For kids, it was a quarter cup. The odds of these families experiencing food insecurity dropped by a third!
That’s the power of prescription produce, aka fruits and vegetables.
But what is food insecurity, and how is it impacting families worldwide?
What is Food Insecurity?
Food insecurity refers to the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. According to Feeding America, in 2019, an estimated 35.2 million people, including 10.7 million children, were food insecure in the United States.
It is often rooted in poverty and implies that people can either not get enough food to meet their needs or must choose between food and other basic needs like housing, medicine, or transportation.
How Does Food Insecurity Impact Families?
A lack of adequate nutrition can lead to various health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Families may rely on cheap, processed foods high in fats, sugars, and sodium.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food-insecure households are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases.
The stress and anxiety associated with not knowing where the next meal will come from can have significant psychological impacts. The American Psychological Association reports that food insecurity is linked with higher rates of depression and anxiety.
Developmental Delays in Children
Nutritional deficiencies can lead to developmental issues in children, affecting their physical growth, cognitive development, and ability to focus in educational settings.
A 2017 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that food insecurity in early childhood is associated with poor cognitive and emotional development.
Food insecurity often creates a cycle of poverty. Poor nutrition can lead to poor health, increasing healthcare costs and reduced work productivity or educational attainment.
Food insecurity annually costs the U.S. $160 billion in healthcare and educational expenses.
Social and Emotional Impact
Food insecurity can strain relationships within a family. Parents might feel guilt or shame, and children may experience stigma among peers for not eating enough or receiving free or reduced-price school meals.
Food-insecure children are more likely to struggle academically. According to a 2019 study by the National Education Association, it’s challenging to focus and engage in learning when hungry.
It leads to lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, and an increased likelihood of dropping out of school.
Families experiencing food insecurity may employ harmful coping strategies, such as selling off assets or going into debt to buy food, worsening their long-term financial stability.
High rates of food insecurity in a community can lead to increased healthcare costs, lower work productivity, and greater demand for social services, thereby affecting the community as a whole.
Food insecurity is a complex issue that needs multi-faceted solutions. The impact of food insecurity goes beyond the dinner table, affecting various aspects of family life and community well-being.
The Fine Print
Dr. Mitchell Elkind, a big-shot expert, noted that the prescription produce study wasn’t perfect. For example, there wasn’t a control group to compare the results.
But the initial findings are so promising that further, more rigorous studies, including randomized controlled trials, are in the works.
Dr. Mitchell Elkind
Inadequate nutrition + food insecurity are key contributors to worldwide chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes & heart failure and strokes.Tweet
What Does the Future Hold?
According to Dr. Elkind, the American Heart Association is so excited about these findings that they’re launching a new initiative called “Food Is Medicine.”
This will focus on supporting more robust trials to really dig into how impactful these produce prescriptions can be.
So, What’s the Takeaway?
If you’re a parent trying to get your kiddos to eat more greens, or if you’re vegan and all about that plant-based life, this is incredible news.
The universe is saying, “Hey, fruits and veggies aren’t just side dishes; they’re medicine!“
Now, who’s ready for a prescription for some apples and kale? 🍎🥬
Message to Parents
Parents, the benefits of making fruits and vegetables a staple in your family’s meals are immense. This research showcases how a simple change can substantially improve the health and well-being of adults and children.
Let’s make a positive change for the future of our families. The power to make a real difference lies within you.