Doctors Write a New Prescription for Preventing Disease: Fruits and Veggies

Orlando Conference Overview-80In select communities across the United States, doctors are writing prescriptions for fruits and vegetables to help their patients achieve better health.

The innovative Fruits & Vegetable Prescription Program™ (FVRx™) is being piloted by Wholesome Wave, a national non-profit organization that works to improve access to fresh, local produce in historically under-served communities. It forges connections between community health providers and local farmers markets in order to promote healthier food choices among overweight children at risk of diet-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

“This program is really changing the way people think about food, without simply telling them to change,” explains Amanda Morgan, Pilot Manager of the FVRx program. “By prescribing, [doctors are] making a direct link between food and health. It also helps people who want to make that change afford it.”

Children participating in the program meet with a primary care provider and nutritionist once a month, for four to six months, to discuss healthy eating habits, set dietary goals, and track changes in their weight and body mass index (BMI). At the end of each meeting, they get a prescription for fresh fruits and veggies, which they can redeem at local farmers markets. The prescriptions are valued at $1 per day for each family member, helping participants and their families to afford healthier food options.

Participants eat more fruits and vegetables, shed pounds, and shift tastes

In 2012 alone, approximately 400 families benefited from Wholesome Wave’s program. More than half of participants increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables – and 37.8% of participating children lowered their BMI scores.

One patient, 14 year-old Johanna Terron, even credits the program for changing her food preferences.

Before she enrolled in the program, Terron was overweight, had severe asthma, and ate very few vegetables, preferring junk food and regular trips to Burger King instead. She has since lost twenty pounds and experienced significant improvements in her asthma. The program has also helped her to explore new foods – like pears and cantaloupes, which she had never tried before – and develop a taste for healthier options.

“’I don’t know how to explain it,” she says, in an inerview with NPR, “but [the fresh food] tastes better.”

Fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet

Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and biologically active phytochemicals, which may help to prevent disease and promote good health,  explains the Linus Pauling Institute.

In fact, research suggests that piling your plate with fruits and veggies may help to protect against many ailments, including:

  • Heart disease and stroke. Consuming eight or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables could slash your risk of coronary heart disease by 20%,according to research conducted among more than 126,000 participants from the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study and Nurses’ Health Study. Eating more fruits and veggies could also lower your risk of ischemic stroke by up to 30%.
  • Diabetes. If you are overweight, adding more leafy greens and yellow vegetables to your plate could help to lower your odds of developing type 2 diabetes, suggests a study conducted among nearly 40,000 American women.
  • Osteoporosis. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake may slow bone loss, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Researchers found that boosting fruit and veggie intake from about three to nine servings per day lowered biochemical markers of bone turnover and significantly decreased urinary calcium loss.

Take simple steps to add more fruits and veggies to your diet

The evidence is clear – getting enough fruits and vegetables is essential to good health. Start meeting your daily needs by following these simple tips:

  • plateAt every meal, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables,recommends the United States Department of Agriculture. Exact serving recommendations vary, depending on your age, sex, and level of physical activity.
  • Explore the produce aisle and try something new,  suggests the Harvard Public School of Health. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in all different hues, in order to maximize the potential health benefits and enjoy a wide range of colors, textures, and flavors.
  • Consume plant-based foods in whole form, rather than as supplements. In most cases, explains the Linus Pauling Institute, studies have shown that supplemental doses of individual micronutrients or phytochemicals do not provide the same benefits of whole fruits and vegetables.

To read more:

Allow me to prescribe what thousands of doctors ‘prescribe’ so their patients get more fruits and vegetables in their diet: Juice Plus+!