The fact is, much today’s crops are far lower in nutritional value than it was just 50 years ago because our soil is being depleted of essential vitamins and minerals.
This is sad and disturbing news. Even if you are eating an organic, healthy diet you may still be missing out on some minerals and vitamins. This is due to the efforts to increase yield at the expense of nutritional value along with the effects of industrialized farming practices have had on our soils.
According to a study in the NY Times:
Several studies of fruits, vegetables and grains have suggested a decline in nutritional value over time, but the reasons may not be as simple as soil depletion. There is considerable evidence that such problems may be related to changes in cultivated varieties, with some high-yielding plants being less nutritious than historical varieties. Several other issues are involved, like changes in farming methods, including the extensive use of chemical fertilizers, as well as food processing and preparation. A 2004 study evaluated Department of Agriculture data for 43 garden crops from 1950 to 1999. The researchers found statistically reliable declines for six nutrients — protein, calcium, potassium, iron and vitamins B2 and C.
Plants cultivated to produce higher yields tend to have less energy for other activities like growing deep roots and generating phytochemicals—health-promoting compounds like antioxidants—the report explains. And conventional farming methods, such as close plant spacing and the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, often cause crops to absorb fewer nutrients and have unhealthy root systems and less flavor, and sometimes make them more vulnerable to pests.
Now, some of the loss of nutritional value of crops can possibly be attributed to trade offs in nutritional value for crop yield and further studies are very much needed but it still an alarming trend.
That’s not to say that today’s fruits and vegetables have no nutritional value, far from it. As always include these in your diet and buy or grow organic when possible. Also reduce foods that contain sugars, are processed and include refined (white) flour.
Additional sources for the nutritional value of crops: