A new report of nursing moms comes with a call-to-action: Eat your veggies. In this paper, published in the journal PLOS ONE and led by Purdue University, researchers studied the nutritional Summerland+Veggiesmakeup of breast milk from moms in the U.S., Mexico and China.

“Studying the composition of human milk is one of the best guides we have for determining optimal nutrition intake for infants,” nutrition professor Mario Ferruzzi told Medical News Today.

The results of this study’s findings? Breastfeeding moms in the U.S. had much lower levels of carotenoids in their milk – meaning, of course, that they were passing less on to their young than mothers in Mexico and China. In fact, moms in China showed levels of 40 percent more carotenoids than U.S. women, and Mexican moms showed 25 percent more.

Why it matters

Carotenoids are essential to eye health and a well-functioning immune system. Abundantly found in squash, sweet potatoes, carrots and leafy greens, they are rich in vitamin A and play a big role in keeping our bodies running optimally.

“Evidence is increasing that carotenoids are important for both mothers and infants,” Ferruzzi continued. “Nursing women should eat fruits and vegetables as recommended in dietary guidelines. As long as your baby is happy with it, don’t exclude bright orange or yellow produce and leafy vegetables from your diet.”

This study hints at a disturbing trend – that Americans don’t consume enough vegetables. According to health experts, adults should eat 5-9 servings of veggies each day.

The bottom line

This study highlights the gap in healthy eating between American, Chinese and Mexican moms. While it focused largely on the health-giving plant pigment known as the carotenoid, the report serves as an excellent reminder: As moms, our diets matter. The research is in and science has spoken – it’s time to up our veggie intake.