The Olympics: Does fresh produce win gold?
How far up the medal table does fresh produce feature?

The Olympics: Does fresh produce win gold?

Jim Butler
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The health benefits of a diet rich in fruit and veg are well known. However, as the Rio Olympics come to a close and Team GB’s glorious athletes arrive home, those in the industry might be in for a shock when it comes to linking athletic prowess and eating your five-a-day as Produce Business UK finds out

As the sun – and rain, and clouds, well, it is winter in Brazil at present – sets on the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, us sports-mad Brits are basking in the afterglow of an unprecedented showing from Team GB.

Not only have our boys and girls come second in the medal table, thus beating China for the first time in the modern era, we also became the first host nation to win more medals at the following Olympics.

In among the glory for the likes of Nicola Adams, Max Whitlock, Jason Kenny, Laura Trott, Mo Farah, Adam Peaty, our female hockey players, Andy Murray and so on, are tales of courage, bravery and outstanding athletic excellence. And– one would suspect – a cavalcade of healthy diets brimming with fresh fruit and vegetable, yes?

Well, you would be wrong. OK, wrong-ish. Buyers looking to grab a slice of the golden post-Olympic halo by extolling the virtues of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables might be in for something of a shock. An infographic produced to demonstrate the varying diets of a handful of current Olympians, and a couple of past Olympic heroes, illustrates that fruit and vegetables are not necessarily what Usain Bolt, Simone Giles and Michael Phelps reach for first thing in the morning.

In fact of the 13 athletes shown – and representing a wide range of sports from sailing to boxing, weightlifting to cycling and swimming to sprinting – fresh produce is mentioned seven times.

You can see the infographic here


View Interactive Version (via Sports Betting Online).

Fruit shakes and steamed veg

Two-time football gold medallist (but not this time around) American Carli Lloyd drinks a lot of fruit shakes, while Great Britain’s most successful Olympic track and field athlete (after he defended his 5,000m and 10,000m titles from London), Mo Farah eats plenty of steamed vegetables to complement his pasta and grilled chicken.

Those that need excess energy – think Michael Phelps and the track cyclists –seem to avoid an abundance of fruit and vegetables, but perhaps that shouldn’t concern us here. Phelps’ diet – five or more full meals a day, which amounts to three times more calories than the recommended daily intake for a man of his size – wouldn’t be advisable in non-Olympic circles!

If you’re looking to keep calories to a minimum but need to increase the carbohydrate intake – yes, Usain, we’re looking at you – then eating darker coloured vegetables is the way to go. That’s surely a promotion in the making? And while fat is still a contentious word in food and health circles, sources of good fat – yes, that is a thing – can be found in avocados. The double 800m champion, Kenya’s David Rudisha, is no doubt aware of these properties. As an aside – has anyone done anything with radishes and the middle-distance ace? No? Ok, just us then…

Dancing sprouts

Rower Helen Glover powered to another gold in Rio thanks to all the vegetables she eats – and a whole host of skill and training, naturally – although why she had to go and dress up as a dancing sprout at the closing ceremony is beyond us.

Those that have a strange aversion to vegetables can still get their healthy kick by blending them into a meatball mix. Hey, if it’s good enough for heavyweight boxing champ and 2012 gold medallist Anthony Joshua… Oh, and we’re not suggesting he has an aversion to vegetables, either. We wouldn’t say that to his face.

Finally, Brazilian sailor Robert Scheidt chows down on an abundance of fruit in an effort to keep his weight at optimum performance level.

Fruit and vegetables’ golden opportunity

So, although fruit and veg might not have propelled everyone to gold in the last two weeks, there’s still plenty to be gained from linking the health benefits of fresh produce to a nation’s wellbeing. As Dr John Stanton, Professor of Food Marketing at St Joseph’s University in the US, argued at the recent London Produce Show and Conference, the fresh produce industry is slow to boast about the goodness its products provide.

““What’s most shocking,” he sighed, “is that the majority of fresh products don’t have any attributes or benefits listed,” he noted. “We don’t tell them why our products are good for them. We don’t even tell them how good they taste. Everyone does that. The produce industry is going to have to use every available media to remind consumers whether it’s online or in-store and tell them about it.”

Food for thought indeed.

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