NNC pushes for vegetable production, consumption
TACLOBAN CITY – The high malnutrition rate in a place could be attributed to the low consumption of vegetables by its populace, the National Nutrition Council (NNC) said.
A study recently conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute revealed that vegetable consumption among Filipinos remains low at 110/grams/capita per year.
This is why, in the celebration this year’s Nutrition Month in July, the NNC has chosen as its theme “Pagkain ng Gulay Ugaliin; Araw-araw itong ihain,” which roughly means “Make vegetable-eating a habit; serve vegetables on the dining table every day.”
Last week, around 50 stakeholders attended a meeting on the celebration of the Nutrition Month 2012 this July at RDC Conference Room, NEDA-8 Building, Government Center, Barangay Candahug, Palo, Leyte.
Carina Z. Santiago, NNC regional nutrition program coordinator, said that Presidential Decree 491, or the Nutrition Act of the Philippines, has appointed the National Nutrition Council (NNC) as the lead agency to coordinate the nationwide celebration of this annual event held every July, the Nutrition Month.
She said that after giving focus during last year’s Nutrition Month to the benefits of breastfeeding, the NNC will focus now on the production and consumption of vegetables.
It can be recalled that breastfeeding is beneficial to babies because breast milk provides complete nutrition and strengthening of the baby’s immune syatem. Experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding until age 2.
Vegetable, on the other hand, has many health benefits to the eater. Vegetables may help decrease bone loss as vegetables decrease the amount of calcium excreted in the urine; may help in lowering calorie intake and thus, help in maintaining healthy weight because vegetables are low in calories; and do not contain cholesterol, but contain antioxidants and protectants such as carotenoids, lycopene and phytochemicals which can help strengthen the immune system, reduce the risk of diseases, and contribute to well-being.
According to the World Health Organization, adequate consumption of fruit and vegetables reduces the risk for cardiovascular diseases, stomach cancer and colorectal cancer. The WHO added that there is convincing evidence that the consumption of high levels of high-energy foods, such as processed foods that are high in fats and sugars, promotes obesity compared to low-energy foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top 10 risk factors contributing to attributable mortality, according to evidence presented in the 2003 World Health Report.
The WHO also reported that approximately 1.7 million of deaths worldwide are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption;low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top 10 selected risk factors for global mortality; and worldwide, insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables is estimated to cause around 14% of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, about 11% of ischemic heart disease deaths and about 9% of stroke deaths.
Segundina Dilao, NNC regional nutritionist, also explained during that same meeting that consumption of vegetables could help prevent micronutrient deficiencies.
She said eating a variety of vegetables together with fruits ensures an adequate intake of most micronutrients, dietary fibers and a host of essential non-nutrient substances. Deficiencies in intakes of calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamins A and C can be improved through increased vegetable intake, she added.
Dilao added that having vegetable gardens in the households can increase supply and availability of vegetables for families. She, however, said that only 67.7% or 7 out of every 10 households had vegetable gardens or fruit trees based on the 2008 National Nutrition Survey.
According to her, the survey also revealed that most of the households or 79.1% used the produce from the gardens for their own consumption while only 17.6% both consumed and sold their produce. When it comes to participation in government’s food production program such as the Gulayan ng Masa which promoted integrated backyard gardening, only 51.8% of households participated.
She said the World Health Organization recommends eating a minimum of 400 grams of vegetables and fruits per day which is equivalent to 5 servings per day with 3 servings of vegetables per day. The WHO recommends this amount for the prevention of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, as well as for the prevention and alleviation of several micronutrient deficiencies, especially in less developed countries.
Dilao likewise explained what kinds of nutrients are found in vegetables and the health benefits of eating vegetables. She said eating vegetables might help decrease bone loss as vegetables decrease the amount of calcium excreted in the urine and might help in lowering calorie intake and thus, help in maintaining healthy weight because vegetables are low in calories.
She emphasized that vegetables do not contain cholesterol, but instead contain antioxidants and protectants such as carotenoids, lycopene and phytochemicals which can help strengthen the immune system, reduce the risk of diseases, and contribute to well-being.
Among the activities that the group decided to hold during the Nutrition Month celebration are a motocade around the city of Tacloban on July 2, to end at the Pawing Elementary School in Barangay Pawing, Palo, Leyte, where a mass, short program and other activities are to be held.
BY VEN LABRO
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