The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has announced 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV) with an appeal to improve healthy and sustainable food production through innovation and technology and to reduce food loss and waste.
The IYFV 2021 will aim to raise awareness about the importance of Fruits and Vegetables in nutrition, food security and health. Especially during these pandemic times, Fruits and Vegetables are ideal for strengthening our immune systems.
High nutritional value
The focus on Fruits and vegetables this year will encourage countries to improve infrastructure, farming practices and food supply chains as these are perishable items and need to be eaten fresh. Increasing the shelf life of fresh produce items and preserving their high nutritional value are also important. This will also present an opportunity for farmers to switch to these cash crops as they are very profitable.
According to FAO, up to 50 per cent of Fruits and Vegetables produced in developing countries are lost in the supply chain between harvest and consumption. Besides, significant quantities that are perfectly fit for consumption are wasted along the food system because of aesthetic or physical irregularities.
Losses in Fruits and Vegetables also represent a waste of increasingly scarce resources such as soil and water.
Did you know that it can take up to 50 litres of water to produce an orange?
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FAO and the World Health Organisation recommend that each adult consumes at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, as well as to counter micronutrient deficiencies.
Fruits and Vegetables are good sources of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are low in fat, salt and sugar so they reduce obesity and lower cholesterol.
Vegetables and fruits also contain phytochemicals or plant chemicals. These biologically active substances can help to protect you from some diseases like:
Type 2 diabetes
Heart (cardiovascular) disease
How to eat your F&V
Fruits and Vegetables come in a variety of colours - Nature meant it that way because each of these colours contain protective compounds.
Tomatoes, Grapefruit and Watermelon are red because they contain Lycopene, an antioxidant which helps fight prostate cancer and heart disease.
Cruciferous Vegetables like Cauliflower, Cabbage and Broccoli contain Sulforaphane to help protect against some cancers. Dark leafy Vegetables like Spinach and Kale get their green colour from Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which not only improves vision, but they help maintain your vision in the long-term.
The Anthocyanins in Blueberries, Eggplant, red Onions, Kidney beans, Pomegranates and Grapes protect the body from heart disease and cancer.
It is recommended that one should eat a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables every day to get the full range of their health benefits. Use the colour and texture of different varieties to make interesting and visually appealing meals.
It is better to eat the fruit or vegetable raw. In cases where the vegetable requires cooking, try not to overcook as this will result in loss of nutrients. Ironically, fruit juice does not contain the same amount of nutrients as the whole fruit.
To encourage your family to eat fruits & vegetables as a habit, try these tips:
Introduce Fruits and Vegetables at as early as 6 months of age.
Small portions are more attractive for youngsters. So keep snack-size portions of Fruits and Vegetables daily in your fridge.
Keep fresh Fruits where they easily catch the eye. Remember out of sight is out of mind.
Make your favourite recipes adding a dash of Fruit (like blueberries to custard) or Veggie (green peas to potato).
Use as much of the whole Fruit and Vegetable as possible - most of the nutrients lie just below the skin. So eat chickoos, apples and guavas without removing the skin.
Make homemade pestos, chutneys and pickles made from local vegetables and use them as dips for your Nachos or Tacos.
Vegetable soups and fruit wines can be easily made at home and make for interesting dinner companions.
Eat seasonal Fruits and Vegetables.
Respect food from Farm to table.
The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021 falls within the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) and the UN Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF 2019-2028).