The truth about food nutrition and why we need to grow our own food

The truth about food is that food does not contain enough nutrition. This is why we need to grow our own food. People talk about cost and weight of produce which make little difference.

" The nutritional values of some popular vegetables, from asparagus to spinach, have dropped significantly since 1950. A 2004 US study found important nutrients in some garden crops are up to 38% lower than there were at the middle of the 20th Century. On average, across the 43 vegetables analysed, calcium content declined 16%, iron by 15% and phosphorus by 9%. The vitamins riboflavin and ascorbic acid both dropped significantly, while there were slight declines in protein levels. Similar decreases have been observed in the nutrients present in wheat. What’s happening?"

" While the Green Revolution helped to tackle world hunger, today we find ourselves with a global food system that in some cases has been designed to deliver calories and cosmetic perfection but not necessarily nutrition. This is contributing to a phenomenon called hidden hunger, where people feel sated but may not be healthy, as their food is calorie-rich but nutrient-poor. It might initially sound counter-intuitive but obese individuals can be nutrient-deficient."

Soil depletion primarily caused by modern agriculture has been a problem Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious? - Scientific American

" It would be overkill to say that the carrot you eat today has very little nutrition in it—especially compared to some of the other less healthy foods you likely also eat—but it is true that fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.

A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.

“Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” reported Davis, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” There have likely been declines in other nutrients, too, he said, such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950 and more research is needed to find out how much less we are getting of these key vitamins and minerals.

The Organic Consumers Association cites several other studies with similar findings: A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent. A similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal,found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. Yet another study concluded that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one.

What can be done? The key to healthier produce is healthier soil. Alternating fields between growing seasons to give land time to restore would be one important step. Also, foregoing pesticides and fertilizers in favor of organic growing methods is good for the soil, the produce and its consumers. Those who want to get the most nutritious fruits and vegetables should buy regularly from local organic farmers.

UT’s Davis warns that just because fruits and vegetables aren’t as healthy as they used to be doesn’t mean we should avoid them. “Vegetables are extraordinarily rich in nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals,” he reported. “They are still there, and vegetables and fruits are our best sources for these.”"


More Than 50 Billion Tons of Topsoil Have Eroded in the Midwest

The estimate of annual loss is nearly double the rate of erosion the USDA considers sustainable

Elizabeth Gamillo](Articles by Elizabeth Gamillo | Smithsonian Magazine)

Daily Correspondent

April 19, 2022

Isaac Larsen, a geosciences expert at UMass Amherst, stands near a drop-off that seperates native remnant prairie from farmland in Iowa. Reseachers found that farmed fields were more than a foot lower than the prairie on average. UMass Amherst

Since farmers began tilling the land in the Midwest 160 years ago, 57.6 billion metric tons of topsoil have eroded, according to a study published recently in Earth’s Future. The loss has occurred despite conservation efforts implemented in the 1930s after the Dust Bowl, and the erosion rate is estimated to be double what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says is sustainable. Future crop production could be severely limited if it continues, reports Rachel Crowell for Science News.

Degraded soil makes growing food more difficult and expensive. Without healthy soil, farmers won’t be able to grow nutrient-dense food to feed our growing population. The calculated loss in the region is part of a critical issue; some experts suspect that Earth will run out of usable topsoil within [60 years]

The team of researchers led by geoscientists at the University Massachusetts Amherst measured the elevation differences between native prairie and farm fields across Midwestern states to see how tilling has changed landscapes. Native prairie remnants are higher than the surrounding land, the study explains.

The majority of the 20 investigated sites were located in central Iowa, but other places were studied in Illinois, South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska, reports Katie Pikes for “These rare prairie remnants that are scattered across the Midwest are sort of a preservation of the pre-European-American settlement land surface,” says Isaac Larsen, study author from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, to Science News.

The research team had help from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to identify sites for the study. On average, farmed fields were 1.2 feet below the prairie, per Science News. After measuring soil height in each area, the team found that, on average, topsoil is eroding at a rate of 1.9 millimeters per year, Harvest Public Media reports.

When topsoil erodes, the nutrients crops need go with it, making it more difficult for soil to store water and support plant growth. Farmers can lose 50 to 70 percent of their yield potential because of the loss of topsoil, reports Harvest Public Media. Rapid erosion is a problem because recovering topsoil is a slow process that takes years. Generating just over an inch of topsoil takes 1,000 years, said Maria-Helena Semedo of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization

Topsoil can erode due to strong winds, hard rains and flowing water. Farming practices like tilling, the process farmers use to overturn the ground to prepare it for crops, leave the soil vulnerable to surface runoff. One way to help mitigate the loss of topsoil is to have farmers use no-till practices to grow crops. “By and large, we have the technology now to make no-till work or something that approximates it, maybe strip till,” Richard Cruse, an agronomy expert at Iowa State University not involved with the study, says to Harvest Public Media. “So, it’s realistic. It’s more challenging with some soils than others.”

According to the USDA, no-till practices have already been implemented by 51 percent of soybean, cotton, corn and wheat farmers in the U.S. Cover crops may also be a solution—they are plants grown during the offseason—but are only used in about 5 percent of cases, Bruno Basso, an agricultural researcher at Michigan State University not involved with the study, says to Science News.

“As erosion degrades our soils, it reduces our ability to grow food,” Larsen explains in a press release. “Combine this with increasing global population and climate stress, and we have a real problem.”"

There is more to it than just simple erosion. Poor farming practices continue to this day

People think in terms of there lifetime only. We need to think about crop rotation longer term. At my farm i grew row crops then i rotated to hay and fruit trees. The next person should plant oaks, walnuts , pecans, almonds etc or sugar maples. The problem is monoculture and what it takes for 100,000 farms to grow the same crop.