Scientists say a greater possibility of avoiding stress and anxiety exists for Americans whose doctors advise consuming more fruits and vegetables through "produce prescription."
Through "produce prescription" programs, which permit doctors to prescribe fruits and vegetables alongside traditional medications and have those foods covered by a patient's health insurance or grants from a community program, researchers from Tufts University studied nearly 4,000 participants across a dozen states.
Within six months, almost all adults at risk for heart disease saw lowered blood pressure, reduced body mass index (BMI), improved blood sugar levels, and decreased food insecurity.
Food security refers to when everyone, at all times, has physical and financial access to enough safe and nourishing food that satisfies their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
Participants referred to the programs by healthcare professionals received between $15 and $300 per month, or $64 on average, to purchase fresh produce at grocery stores or farmers' markets.
Adults who participated in the program reported eating about a cup more fruits and vegetables daily and were 62% more likely to say they felt healthier than previously.
Participants also reported decreased food insecurity and a need for equal and consistent access to healthful foods and beverages. Food insecurity can cause stress, worry, and tough financial decisions when deciding whether to pay for food or other essentials like shelter and medicine.
According to the study, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity-related cancers account for up to $1.7 trillion annually in healthcare costs in the United States, and inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables is linked to more than 100,000 annual cardiac deaths.
The USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services say it costs $2.10 to $2.60 a day, or $63 to $78 per month, for Americans to consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.
Per the American Heart Association, inadequate eating is responsible for one out of every five fatalities worldwide, and poor nutrition contributed to 8 million deaths in 2019 alone. According to the research, cardiovascular disease claims more than 300,000 lives yearly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hardly one in ten people in the U.S. consumes enough daily fruits and vegetables, approximately one to two cups of fruit and two to three cups of veggies per day for adults.
Men were less likely than women to meet their dietary goals, while Hispanic individuals nationwide were the most likely to do so, followed by Black and white Americans.
Historically, community-based groups have conducted programs that provide grants or contributions to cover the cost of food for individuals in need, but more institutions have started giving access to fresh fruits and vegetables priority in recent years, the survey finds.