Researchers consider money a major barrier to eating healthier foods, which are often more expensive. That’s one reason why impoverished folks disproportionately face health problems such as thyroid disease.
But poor people aren’t the only ones shunning produce. Few American adults eat the portions of fruits and vegetables health experts recommend, and the numbers have declined in recent years. And Michiganders (this fast food-frequenting reporter included) are less likely to meet dietary guidelines than most Americans, according to surveys.
“We’re all doing abysmally,” said Dr. Alicia Cohen, a clinical lecturer at the University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine and Research Fellow at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center.
To reduce the risk of diet-related illnesses like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and obesity, the federal government suggests adults eat the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day.
But just 12.2 percent of Americans in 2015 met the fruit guideline and 9.3 percent met the vegetable guideline, according to survey results last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s worse in Michigan: 11.9 percent ate enough fruits, while 7.7 percent consumed enough vegetables.
It’s not clear why Michigan lags behind the rest of the country, but a number of factors can shape such trends, Cohen said.
Research consistently shows high-energy grains, fats and sugars cost less per calorie than more vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. A box of dry spaghetti and head of iceberg lettuce both cost about $1, for instance, but the pasta contains more than 10 times the calories (about 1,200 to 100).
Studies even blame federal farm subsidies on corn, whose syrup is a cheap staple of junk food.
But other factors — whether cultural or practical — affect diets, too, including something known as “time poverty,” not having enough time to cook healthy meals.
Concerns about preparation time were among several factors identified in a 2010 survey of people living in Washington, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan and Georgia.
Other cited perceptions, published in the journal Clinical Medicine and Research: that fruits and vegetables don’t satisfy hunger and people weren’t sure how many servings they needed.