Have Fruits and Veggies Become Less Nutritious?
If you compared a carrot today with a carrot from 40 years ago, you might be surprised to find the nutritional value of today’s carrot is noticeably lower. The carrot would still be loaded with Vitamin A, fiber, and other critical nutrients needed for your health, but there would be a bit less of all those nutrients.
The Journal of the American College of Nutrition released a study  that looked at the difference between crops from 1950 and 1999. The study looked at the water level and quantities of 13 different nutrients in 43 different garden crops, most of which were veggies.
After compiling all the data and adjusting for various factors (such as moisture content of the soil), the researchers found that all 43 of the foods measured showed “statistically reliable declines” in 6 critical nutrients:
Protein, the building block of all muscle and tissue in the human body.
Calcium, the nutrient required for healthy bones and teeth and the digestion of fats.
Iron, the mineral that plays a critical role in the production of red blood cells to transport oxygen and nutrients around the body.
Potassium, the mineral that works with sodium to balance out fluid levels in your body.
Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2, which is critical for reducing the frequency of migraines and headaches.
Ascorbic Acid, also known as Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that is critical for immune function, reducing oxidative stress, promotes healing, and enables your body to maintain and form connective tissue.
The other 7 nutrients measured in the study were not significantly affected over the passage of time, but the decline in these six nutrients ranged from 6 to 38%. That’s a pretty noticeable decrease in the nutrient quality of your food!
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The study ended by saying, “We suggest that any real declines are generally most easily explained by changes in cultivated varieties between 1950 and 1999, in which there may be trade-offs between yield and nutrient content.”
However, aside from the varieties of fruits and vegetables grown, there could be another explanation why our produce is becoming less nutritious: the soil has become depleted.
Modern farming methods have stripped a lot of nutrients from the soil, and each generation of fast-growing crops is continuing the damage to the soil quality. There is a very real risk that the decline in soil quality will continue to lead to the decline of nutritional value in our produce.
Is there a way to stop the problem or reverse the trend? According to a researcher from the University of Texas, the solution is to find ways to improve soil quality, including:
Alternating fields between growing seasons. This is an old-school farming method (letting land sit fallow) that restores the fertility to the ground. It’s part of crop rotation, and it can help to both avoid surplus production and improve soil quality.
Avoiding chemical pesticides and fertilizers. These can not only kill off a lot of the nutrients in produce, but can actually be absorbed into the soil, where they will linger and ultimately be absorbed into the produce itself.
Trying organic growing methods. Organic growing methods use pesticides and fertilizers that are all natural and encourage better soil quality the way Mother Nature intended. While organic growing is more expensive, it can help to restore lost nutrients to the soil—thereby restoring nutrients to the veggies and fruits we grow.
The good news, however, is that fruits and veggies are still loaded with nutrients. Though their nutritional value may have decreased in the last few decades, the decrease isn’t so much that the fruits and veggies are useless. They’re still your best source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In fact, you can eat MORE veggies and fruits, which is not only great for getting more nutrients, but will aid in weight loss and control efforts very effectively.
Of course, in addition to fruits and vegetables, you can find other sources of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Whole food supplements are loaded with concentrated doses of the nutrients derived from fruits and veggies. You can add a lot more of these critical nutrients to your diet in a simple, delicious, easy-to-prepare form, and they can go a long way toward improving your overall health. They’re a great option for combatting the decrease in nutrients in the food you eat.
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