Researchers from the University of Texas in Austin examined data from 1950 and 1999 for 43 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They found “reliable declines” in amounts of calcium, iron, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin and vitamin C over the nearly 50-year time period. The team attributed the results to modern agricultural methods intended to enhance crop size, rate of growth and resistance to pests and disease.
According to the Organic Consumers’ Association, many other studies report similar results. An analysis by the Kushi Institute looked at nutritional data in 12 fresh vegetables from 1975 to 1997 and found that calcium levels were reduced by 27%, and iron was lowered by 37%. In addition, levels of vitamin A fell by 21% and vitamin C was reduced by 30%.
Another study found that the amount of vitamin A our grandparents would have gotten from one orange equals the amount found in eight oranges today!
The human body requires seven key minerals for optimum health: calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur. Trace minerals are also thought to be essential for a healthy body. These are chromium, cobalt (vitamin B12), copper, fluorine, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc.
Several decades ago, researchers determined that plants only needed three minerals to grow - nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK). At the time, this seemed like a good solution, as the cost of traditional farming methods could be greatly reduced. Unfortunately, the research did not consider what minerals were needed for humans to grow. Even though NPK can deliver produce that looks and tastes good, it is sorely lacking in nutrients.
The key to nutritious crops is in the soil, and there are ways to help restore much-needed vitamins and minerals:
Crops can be rotated, which is the practice of growing dissimilar crops every other season.
Growers can forego the use of fertilizers and pesticides and opt for organic farming methods which are good for the soil and plants.
In addition to poor soil conditions, the nutritional value of our food supply is also affected by picking crops too early, freezing, drying and processing. Also, produce often travels great distances to reach the consumer which can result in further nutrient depletion.
In order to ensure optimum daily nutrition, purchase whole fruits and vegetables from local, organic growers and take a good-quality vitamin and mineral supplement on a daily basis.