What’s Wrong With Our Fruit and Veg?
By Amber Malik| Nutritionist and Holistic Chef
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? But just how true is this saying? We know that eating plenty of fruit and veg is beneficial for health but food contained far more nutrients in the time of our grandparents than it does today. It’s estimated that in order to get the same amount of vitamins and minerals now that people got fifty years ago from one apple, we’d have to eat approximately 36 apples! Apparently the guidelines of eating ‘5 a day’ are a great underestimation of the actual amount we need for good health.
So why this huge decrease in nutrients?
The main culprit is agriculture. Modern farming techniques are so intensive that the soil is stripped of the vital vitamins and minerals the plants need to absorb. Pesticides deplete the soil further, as well as covering the food with toxic sprays such as glyphosate, which the World Health Organisation has categorised as a probable carcinogen (in other words, it has been found to be linked to causing cancer in humans.)
Another reason is the availability of out-of-season, imported food in supermarkets. To provide certain fruit and vegetables all year round, supermarkets need to pick produce before it is ripe so that it can be flown without spoiling. Produce may be stored in specialised fridges for up to a year and then artificially ‘ripened’ with gas when needed on supermarket shelves. Once a fruit or vegetable is picked from the plant, it cannot naturally ripen any further to increase its nutritional content.
So what can we do to help increase our intake of vitamins and minerals?
1. Eat organic produce as much as possible. Soils for organic fruit and veg contain higher levels of nutrients and the produce is not sprayed with pesticides. To help with budget issues, an online search of ‘the dirty dozen’ in your particular country will show you which foods are most heavily sprayed and these are most essential to eat organic.
2. Eat more seasonal and local produce. A strawberry grown in England in the summer tastes infinitely better than a strawberry grown in Argentina in winter! Farmers markets are on the increase, as are fruit and veg box delivery services – both of which specialise in local, seasonal produce.
3. Supplement. To rely on food alone to get all of your nutritional needs is a difficult task as we need to eat a much greater amount than is sometimes possible. Studies have also concluded that taking a multivitamin doesn’t help with individual deficiencies. The good folk at Vitamin Buddy promise to never recommend or supply multivitamins and to always offer a bespoke service of individual vitamins based on your specific needs and lifestyle. The products offered by Vitamin Buddy are sourced specifically for their high quality and are vegan and gluten free.
4. Eat more raw food and aim to have some raw produce with every meal. When you do eat cooked food, use methods such as steaming and quick grilling to retain more nutrients.
5. Drink vegetable juice. Juicing is greatly in fashion right now and it’s a fantastic way to consume huge amounts of produce that you wouldn’t be able to eat in one go. However, avoid juices that contain a lot of fruit and buying those that are pasteurised (look for ‘cold pressed’ or ‘raw’ on the label.) Fresh juice does remove the fibre but this shouldn’t be an issue if the rest of your daily food intake includes plenty of fruit, veg and other high-fibre foods.
Perhaps we need to change the famous saying to ‘a box of organic, local and seasonal apples a day with supplements may keep the doctor away’ but that just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!