You know the importance of eating vegetables, but did you know you may have to eat more of them to get the nutritional value of the veggies of yesteryear? Although vegetables are still an excellent source of disease fighting vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients; the vegetables that your grandmother served may have been better for you than the ones found on supermarket shelves today.
Are There Really Less Nutritious Veggies Today?
The USDA routinely measures the mineral and vitamin content of a variety of foods that are served on American dinner tables. A researcher at the University of Texas compared the vitamin and mineral content of vegetables from the 1950’s to ones grown in more recent times. There was a significant drop off in the nutritional content of vegetables from the early 1950’s when compared to ones from the late 1990’s. Thirteen different vitamins and minerals were analyzed with six of them showing marked decreases compared to vegetables raised in the 1950’s.
Another finding from this study was that there’s wide variation in the vitamin and mineral content of the same type of vegetable grown by different producers. When researchers randomly sampled vegetables from various producers, they found some contained high levels of phytonutrients and vitamins while others had many times less. For example, a head of cabbage grown at one location might contain twenty times more indoles than cabbage from another producer. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way for the consumer to identify which head of cabbage is the healthier strictly by appearance.
Why Are There Less Nutritious Veggies Now Compared to Earlier Times?
It seems to partially boil down to money ‘” how to produce the greatest number of vegetables in the shortest amount of time. Farmers want to grow crops rapidly so they can get them to market and see a quick return. When crops spend less time in the soil, they absorb fewer nutrients and ultimately have fewer health benefits. Some vegetable crops are also affected by use of nitrogen based fertilizers which can reduce the nutritional value of some types of produce. There’s also the problem of transportation. When produce has to travel long distances to reach supermarkets and then sets for long periods on supermarket shelves, less nutritious veggies are the result.
How to Get More Nutritious Vegetables
One way to counteract this problem of less nutritious veggies is to buy locally grown produce. Because it travels less distance before reaching the consumer, locally grown produce retains more of its nutritional value. Plus, local growers may not have the same pressure to grow crops rapidly that large agricultural businesses have. The other option is to buy organic. Organically grown vegetables are grown without nitrogen based fertilizers and should retain more of their nutritional value. This has been confirmed by some studies.
The bottom line?
Keep eating fresh produce. It’s still a great source of vitamins, minerals, and disease fighting phytochemicals, but consider buying local and organic instead. Even better? Grow your own.