Is Your Produce As Nutritious As Your Grandparents?

The commercially grown grains, fruits and vegetables we consume today are considerably low in nutrition as compared to the crops grown in the past. There have been many studies and researches on the nutritional values of crops that are grown today. According to various studies:

  • The protein concentrations in barley and wheat declined 30%-50% from 1938 to 1990. Imagine how much it would have decreased by now!
  • Similarly, in a study of 45 varieties of corn that were developed between the year 1920 to 2001, there was a considerable decline in the concentrations of amino acids, oil and protein.
  • In 14 different varieties of wheat, there had been a decline in six minerals of 22%-39% in the past decade.
  • According to the nutrient data by official USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), the concentrations of calcium in broccoli averaged about 12.9 mg/g in 1950 but merely 4.4 mg/g in 2003.

All of these studies, along with many more, clearly show the alarming decrease of nutrients in the produce today.

Is Your Produce as Nutritious As Your Grandparents

The Cause

There have been a lot of questions about why there has been such a drastic decrease in the nutritional content of produce developed today. Research shows there are at least two main causes. The first cause is stated to be the ‘dilution effect’. It is believed that it was known since 1940s that produce developed with the help of irrigation, fertilization, and through other environmental means utilized industrial farming tends to reduce the minerals concentrations in them. However, these methods resulted in higher yields and consumers got food in lower prices. But the long term cost of doing so is only now coming to the fore front – decease in food quality.

For instance, a study of affects of phosphorous fertilizers on raspberries found that when higher levels of phosphorus is applied to the yield, it resulted in double the produce with phosphorous concentrations increasing in those plants. However, the report also revealed that the levels of at least eight minerals in the plants decreased by 22% – 55%.

The second cause of this nutritional decline in the produce is said to be the ‘genetic dilution effect’. This is the decrease in concentrations of nutrients which happens when plant breeders start developing high yielding varieties without mainly focusing on the nutrient count. This has been confirmed by studies involving broccoli, corn, and wheat. In grains, vegetables, and fruits, typically 80% – 90% of dry weight yield includes carbohydrates – starches and sugars. When growers or breeders specifically select the varieties for higher yields, they are usually opting for highest carbohydrates amounts.

What You Can Do

Since fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of numerous minerals and vitamins for us, this nutritional decline is highly disturbing. This also shows growing your own garden will often give you better and nutrient-dense produce.   I’ve had an organic garden for the last 4 years and find it rewarding. It is fairly easy to keep up once you get it set up. Read my previous posts about my garden . These 2 books are my best sources for getting  your own garden started.

All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space by Mel Bartholomew

Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! by Patricia Lanza


 Cooking Light
World Watch
Scientific America