The Future of Vegetables

August 17, 2009

Eat your vegetables

Eat your vegetables. Moms the world over have been repeating this phrase for decades, maybe longer. It turns out that they do so with good reason. Vegetables are good for us.

However, studies suggest that Americans don’t eat as many vegetables as part of their daily diets as they probably should. According to the General Mills 2009 Corporate Responsibility Report, just 12 percent of Americans eat the recommended level of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

That may change as the result of continuing innovation in vegetable breeding. Red, yellow and white carrots, sweeter sweet corn and tiny bell peppers are all products being brought to the table from the imagination of breeders that make vegetables more fun and tasty for both the eye and the palate. In addition, vegetable varieties from around the world are gaining acceptance across different cultures. 

When plant breeding, farmers work to find interesting plant characteristics that exist naturally and bring those characteristics together. Breeding is basically a process to mate different plants and then select the improved offspring. The process is repeated time and time again to create new and interesting vegetables, fruits and flowers.

A recently announced collaboration between Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc. and Monsanto Company, a seed company, is yet another illustration of ongoing efforts to put plant breeding to work for consumers. The two companies will strive together to identify and develop unique varieties of broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and spinach for the North American market. 

Vegetables are a beneficial component to our overall diets. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, people who eat more fruits and vegetables are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. For example, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet may reduce risk for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, as well as type 2 diabetes. In addition, the American Cancer Society says that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your cancer risk. That's one reason the group recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Vegetables also provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body. Most vegetables naturally are low in both calories and fat, and they are cholesterol-free. They are also important sources of many nutrients. The list of nutrients that vegetables can provide includes potassium, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin C.

Dole and Monsanto will continue to focus on offering consumers choices that have improved nutrition, flavor, color, texture, taste and aroma. Let’s hope this works to impact all our diets in a positive way.