THE gauntlet has been thrown down to Australians to rise to the challenge of consuming five serves of vegetables per day during National Nutrition Week this week.
An initiative of Nutrition Australia that coincided with the United Nations World Food Day last Monday, the theme for National Nutrition Week (October 15-21) this year is "Try for 5", which encourages Australians to boost their health by increasing their vegetable consumption to the recommended five serves per day.
And among those organisations leading the push is vegetable industry representative body, Ausveg.
It's called for consumers, and growers, to share their stories of how they consume their five serves of vegetables.
Ausveg chief executive officer James Whiteside said most Australians fall alarmingly short of eating five or more serves of veggies each day.
"This has a severe impact on our health as well as the sustainability of the vegetable industry,” he said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, less than 4 per cent of Australians consume the recommended number of vegetable serves per day.
It is estimated that less than 1pc of children meet the recommended quota.
Mr Whiteside encouraged participants to find and show-off creative ways to incorporate five serves of veggies or more into their daily meals, then share those stories and photos with the rest of Australia.
“For most veggies a single serve is just 75 grams, which is around a handful of carrots or a medium-sized potato," he said.
"By taking the chance to increase your daily vegetable intake, Australians can make a huge difference to their overall health and wellbeing.”
Accredited nutritionist and Nutrition Australia CEO Lucinda Hancock says vegetables are what we eat least yet it’s the one we should eat from the most.
“The facts don’t lie. Just one extra serve of vegetables a day reduces the risk of mortality by 5pc and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 4pc," Ms Hancock said.
"An even more compelling reason to eat more vegetables is the risk of stroke decreases by 11pc for every 200g per day increase in vegetable consumption.”
She argues that adding vegetables to a diet is significantly better than a diet of junk foods, confectionery and sugary drinks.
Bayer Australia has also come onboard to support the Try for 5 campaign as a major sponsor.
Bayer Australia head of public and government affair Richard Dickmann said empowering people to understand the role diet plays in self-care can result in significant health benefits for Australians.
"The partnership is another demonstration of Bayer's holistic approach to improving health and wellbeing, and with Nutrition Australia we are proud to be making an impact in preventative health education," he said.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) has also backed the initiative saying vegetables are not only nutritious, they are good for teeth too.
“Australians don’t realise that eating vegetables, alongside dairy foods such as milk and cheese, can help improve oral health”, ADA’s oral health committee chairman, Professor David Manton said.
“Vegetables provide our bodies with important vitamins and minerals, disease-fighting antioxidants and gut-healthy fibre we all need to function and lead healthy lives.
"Veggies can help prevent tooth decay, fight plaque and also help your breath stay fresh.
“Tooth friendly vegetables that encourage chewing, such as celery, carrots and other crunchy veggies do not contribute to tooth decay or acid erosion of teeth. In fact, these vegetables stimulate the flow of saliva and can actually clean tooth surfaces, and provide a natural shine to your teeth.
"Saliva also helps neutralise the acid present in other foods and helps loosen food stuck on and between your teeth, reducing decay risk."
Mr Whiteside encouraged growers throughout the country to put their produce on show and promote the huge opportunity for all Australians to take advantage of the range of recognised health and nutrition benefits that vegetables have to offer.
“Australian consumers have easy access to a range of high quality, locally-grown vegetables and it only takes a few minutes to prepare a single serve," he said.
"We encourage you to keep an eye on Ausveg's social media channels over the coming days to get inspired and ‘Try for 5’.”