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Nutritional value of food down?

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ByAnne-Marie Roy

Les miracles du pH

Are our fruits and vegetables less nutritious than before?

I was recently reading an article about an American nutritionist named Alex Jack, who compared the American nutritional tables from 1963 and 1975 with those of today. To his great surprise, he noted a significant drop in nutritional content, particularly in vegetables (the drop was less marked for fruits).

Since 1975, broccoli has lost 50% of its calcium, watercress 88% of its iron and cauliflower 40% of its vitamin C.

Since 1963, broccoli has lost 50% of its vitamin A, red pepper 30% of its vitamin C, cauliflower 50% of its vitamin C, B1 and B2. Funny thing is that carrots contain more vitamin A; how this can be explained, we don't know yet.

In an article in the Globe and Mail in July 2002, similar figures were given; it noted the difference in nutritional value from 1951 to 1999. The potato would have nearly 60% less iron, the tomato 55% less calcium and the onion 55% less vitamin C.

This raises questions! First of all, what about phyto-elements with antioxidant powers that are not indicated in the tables, such as lycopene? Have they also disappeared in part with the advent of industrial agriculture?

Are the government tables and the techniques used in the laboratory reliable enough to jump to conclusions? Is this what would explain, among other things, the increase in cancers that are now called antioxidant deficiency diseases?

But if all this is true, what should we do? The National Academy of Sciences has recommended to "eat more vegetables"; but knowing that 70% of people do not eat the current minimum recommendations of 5 portions of fruits and vegetables, is it really realistic to increase these recommendations?

Some specialists and pill sellers will say "take supplements to compensate"; but in my opinion, a pill can never be equivalent to a good vegetable offered by mother nature. So the most logical solution would be to go back to organic farming.

Agriculture is a very hot topic these days, it's being talked about on every forum. Environmentalists are in favor of reducing the amount of toxic products in the environment. Ecologists are also in favor of preserving the quality of the land and biodiversity. As for nutritionists, we are just beginning to hear that there may be nutritional benefits to eating organic.

Not so long ago, Dr. Garrel, head of the nutrition department at the University of Montreal, concluded after a series of programs on junk food on Radio-Canada that the nutritional value of organic and conventional foods was similar, but only the taste differed. But Mr. Garrel, how can the taste be different if the nutritional value is the same?

Fortunately, Virginia Worthington, a doctor of nutrition at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, has compiled data from the last 50 years of studies on the subject and has clearly demonstrated the nutritional superiority of organic foods over conventional foods. They would be richer in vitamins and minerals (vitamin C, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus) and in trace elements (iodine, selenium, molybdenum, chromium...) and less rich in nitrates and metals (aluminum, mercury, cadmium, lead...).

One can obviously doubt this information, but when one listens to ecologists talking about the degradation of soil quality and the destruction of microorganisms in the earth caused by the intensive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the conclusions are not very difficult to draw.

Anne-Marie Roy is a dietitian-nutritionist, consultant, speaker and writer.
Tag: Nutrition

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