I hate to say it, but a glass of wine does not count as a fruit, and potatoes are not the only vegetable out there. Hopefully that doesn’t come as breaking news, but here’s what is: the results of the 2018 National Survey of Risk Factors were just released, finding that 94 percent of Argentines do not eat the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
This standard, accepted by both the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, aligns with studies that show that eating enough fruits and vegetables is strongly correlated with lower risks of heart disease and cancer. Risk does not diminish after reaching five servings per day, but hey, that extra apple most certainly won’t hurt.
Cardiovascular disease and cancer are the leading causes of death in most countries in the world, including Argentina (33.68 percent and 21.83 percent, respectively) and the United States (32.51 percent and 24.71 percent.) More science points to the benefits of plant-based diets, and the potential risks of excess meat consumption. Furthermore, vegetarian and vegan diets are correlated with the lowest rates of heart disease and cancer (how do we break this news to the gauchos, who responded to vegan activists by running them off the field at Expo Rural the other day?)
Other key findings in the study include Argentina’s rate of obesity (25.4 percent), overweight population (61.6 percent), and rate of population that consumes tobacco products (22.2 percent).
The survey is conducted every five years, and observing the trends, there’s good news and bad news. There’s been a 1 percent increase in Argentines eating enough produce, and fewer people are consuming tobacco, but the obesity rate has increased by 5 percent. The largest statistical change in the last five years is people exercising less: the rate of population that does not exercise the recommended amount (64.9 percent) dramatically increased when compared to 2013 (54.7 percent.)
- Read More: 10 Places to Eat Vegetarian in Buenos Aires
As the saying goes, health is wealth: malnourishment and obesity often coexist, and are widely seen as symptoms of poverty. Nonetheless, while impoverished regions often have reduced access to quality produce, plant-based diets are in fact the cheapest and most nutritious. But for Argentina, cattle-raising and beef production are quite literally wealth, too. While the country’s beef industry has a powerful hold on policy, there have been efforts at tackling the rising obesity crisis through swaying public interest, such as introducing Meatless Mondays at the Casa Rosada.
Alas, the fact that 94 percent of Argentines do not eat enough fruits and vegetables may seem like a throw-away statistic, but it speaks to a host of complex systemic issues.
I’m currently looking for a fruit or vegetable pun to lighten the mood here…. but am struggling. If you can, LETTUCE know [insert Paige voice: call me!]