The USDA in a new report has expanded the variety of vegetables Americans eat over in the last 20 yearst.
The USDA’s Economic Research Service, said from 2000 to 2019, dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables (excluding tomatoes), and legumes increased their combined share of the vegetables available to eat in the U.S. from 16% to 22%.
The total amount of vegetables available decreased by 4% from 417.4 pounds per capita to 400.1 pounds, coming off the low of 369.6 pounds in 2015, said researchers. The USDA’s food availability data for vegetables include fresh, frozen, canned and dried forms, all measured in fresh-weight equivalents, the report said.
Subgroups of vegetables seeing declines, included white potatoes and “other vegetables,” a subgroup containing 16 different vegetables. Availability of white potatoes fell from 138 pounds per capita to 119.1 pounds between 2000 and 2019, and other starchy vegetables fell from 31.3 to 21.2 pounds.
Availability of other vegetables fell from 93.6 pounds per capita to 83.7 pounds; the report said declines in head lettuce, cabbage, and beets in that subgroup were partially offset by increased availability of onions and cucumbers.
Other vegetable subgroups posted increases in supplies available to eat between 2000 and 2019. The red and orange subgroup (minus tomatoes, for which the USDA said availability has remained flat) had the largest increase in availability, growing from 35.1 pounds per capita to 49.0 pounds.
“In terms of growth in availability, sweet potatoes, chile peppers, and bell peppers were the leaders,” the report said.
The increase availability of dark green vegetables from 2000 to 2019 — led by a 47% jump in romaine and leaf lettuce — added variety to American’s vegetable choices.
Higher supplies of kale, spinach, and broccoli also helped boost availability of dark green vegetables from 21.7 pounds per capita in 2000 to 27.5 pounds in 2019, the report said.