Tag Archives: Vegetable

Fruit, Vegetables Not as Nutritious as 50 Years Ago

In today’s world, food and health related media is everywhere, but according to a commentary published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, this has not brought clarity to or improved understanding of a topic of such obvious impact. Therefore, as communicators of food-related science we must be diligent in our communication to ensure that it is effective in serving both public understanding and the objectives of the communicators.

Dr. Weil, a well-established practitioner in the field of integrative medicine, does a great job of this. In his post How Nutritious is Your Produce?, he discusses research indicating that the nutrient value of fruits and vegetables in the U.S. and Great Britain has declined significantly over the last 50 years.

After reading Dr. Weil’s post, I decided to read the report myself. Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence? highlights three types of evidence that point toward declines of nutrients in fruits and vegetables: (1) early studies of fertilization found inverse relationships between crop yield and mineral concentrations—the widely cited “dilution effect”; (2) three recent studies of historical food composition data found apparent median declines of 5% to 40% or more in some minerals in groups of vegetables and perhaps fruits; one study also evaluated vitamins and protein with similar results; (3) recent side-by-side plantings of low-and high-yield cultivars of broccoli and grains found consistently negative correlations between yield and concentrations of minerals and protein, a newly recognized genetic dilution effect.

Dr. Weil’s post appears to be credible for he represented the findings of the report accurately and in a way that is both informative and beneficial to the public and their understanding of food and health. Below I’ve highlighted why this post is an effective form of communication on food-science to the public:

  • Post includes the study’s limitations
  • Focuses on the most vital information (i.e. health implications), allowing the public to form the most useful net impression of the study’s findings
  • Includes hyperlink to the report published in the February, 2009 Journal of HortScience so that viewers can easily read the original research article.

Additional information from the report that I consider important to include are:

  • The fact that evidence for nutrient declines began to accumulate in the 1940s with observations of (environmental) dilution effects on minerals in many foods and diverse plants.
  • USDA’s data suggests that yields have increased more in vegetables than in fruits, which may help explain the findings of larger nutrient declines in vegetables.

WP 3/2

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U.S. Farm Policy and Consumer Behavior

The other day at the co-op I was paying particular attention to consumer behavior. Essentially, I was paying close and particular attention to the foods that consumers had in their carts and baskets. While a vast majority of people had a least 1-3 items from the produce section, there were the occasion few that did not. I found myself wondering about these occasional few. Did they already have enough vegetables and fruit at home? Do they normally incorporate fruits and vegetables into their daily diet? Are they not buying fruits and vegetables because other foods are cheaper and “more filling”?  These are some of the questions that came to mind.

After leaving City Market that day, I found myself focusing on the last question. That’s when I stumbled upon this chart:

After doing some research, I found one aspect that is often overlooked when looking at the question “why does a salad cost more than a big mac?” is the U.S. Farm Policy which encourages overproduction and driving down the prices of a couple major commodities (i.e. corn and soybeans). The result is food that can be derived from these low cost commodities are what’s made widely available to the consumer for a cheap price. This is why sugar and far are so prevalent today, because they can be derived from corn and soybeans. This also helps to explain why generally speaking unhealthy food is cheaper than fruits and vegetables.

I reflected back to the people I saw in the check out line that didn’t have fruits or vegetables, but had lots of boxed, highly processed yet cheaper products. I couldn’t help but wonder if the situation would be different if the prices for fruits and vegetables were lower. What do you guys think, does the price of fruits and vegetables inhibit you from purchasing them at the grocery store, or do you find a way to incorporate them into your diet while staying within your food budget? I know that I’m able to find a way to incorporate them without spending too much. For example, I often buy veggies from the reduced price section at City Market which consists of vegetables that may have 1 or 2 bruises on it but otherwise are fine. At the same time, I’m not financially independent as I still receive money for groceries and monthly rent from my parents. Anyway, would love to know any tips or suggestions you guys have for eating healthy foods while on a budget!

FN 3/19