Do Our Vegetables Really Contain Vitamins and Minerals?
We all grew up being told by our mother and the
FDA to eat lots of vegetables. We need 3-5 servings each day in
order to stay healthy. Even to this day the FDA supports the idea of
a food pyramid. Some people think monied interests have distorted
the food pyramid, but vegetables are still a valuable item on the
But do today's factory farm raised vegetables
actually contain the vitamins and minerals we think they do?
A nutritionist named Alex Jack was doing some
reading and ordered a copy of the latest US Department of
Agriculture food tables. He happened to have a 1975 version of the
same report and out of curiosity he compared the published nutrient
values in the tables. Jack was astonished to find a lot of
differences in the nutritional value of the different vegetables
listed. The calcium in broccoli had dropped more than 50%.
Watercress was down 88% in its iron content. The vitamin C levels in
cauliflower dropped 40% since 1975 levels. Corn lost more than 78%
of its calcium..
In 2006 Jack went to the FDA looking for an
explanation. Two years later he is still waiting for a response.
Organic Gardening Magazine did an open article written to
Dan Glickman, Secretary of
Agriculture about the topic. They haven't gotten a response either.
Life Extension Magazine decided to do some
investigations themselves. They acquired a 1963 version of the USDA
food tables. Dozens of vegetables and fruits were compared. The
nutrient values of many vegetables have dropped dramatically. The
vitamin C in sweet peppers was listed as 128 mg in 1963. The current
USDA book lists the C level at 89 mg. The vitamin A in apples
dropped from 90 mg in 1963 to 53 mg in 2007.
Not all vegetables were lower. Carrots showed a
gain in vitamin A. Although the National Academy of Sciences now say
it takes 2X as many carrots are originally thought to get the
minimum daily requirement.
Broccoli not only lost 50% of its calcium, the
vitamin A content also dropped 50%. Collard Greens have lost almost
50% of its vitamin A, from 6500 IUs to 3800 IUs. The potassium
content fell from 400 mg to 170 mg. Magnesium is down from 57 mg to
9 mg. Half the vitamin C in cauliflower is now gone as well as the
thiamin and riboflavin. Pineapple has lost almost all the calcium in
it, from 17 mg to 7 mg.
Life Extension also contacted the USDA. The
response that came back from Edward Knipling, head of the USDA
Agricultural Research Service, was very similar to one Organic
Gardening got from a Phyliss Johnson, an USDA employee. People don't
eat broccoli to get calcium and maybe the testing is different now
than it was in 1963 and 1975. Or maybe people aren't eating the same
parts of the plants. The USDA appeared to have more interest in
making sure the produce looked good and the yields were high. That,
by the way, would be taking the side of the companies producing the
products rather than the citizens that are eating them.
So what does this mean? Isn't the USDA concerned
that just maybe the nutrient values of our fruits and vegetables are
decreasing? Is the recommended 3-5 servings of fruits and 2-4 of
fruit still appropriate? By the way a serving is one cup of raw
leafy vegetables or one half cup of cooked or non-leafy produce or
3/4 cup of vegetable juice. If you do a little figuring as the
people at Life Extension did, that is about 9 cups of vegetables and
fruits a day. So who is eating that much?
Study after study shows that hardly anyone in the
US is getting those levels of fruits and vegetables. Few people
actually get the RDA minimum levels of nutrients. Instead the
American diet if full of bad things, processed foods and fast food.
According to one study, less than one third of Americans get the
minimum five servings for fruits and vegetables. Only about 10% of
Americans are eating healthy groceries. And if the rest of the 90%
accidentally eat a vegetable it sure looks like they don't contain the
nutrients they use to.
Bottom line is if you want to fight for your
health you can't do it with food alone. You need a high quality
supplement to fill in what you aren't getting in your diet.