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How Soil Mineral Depletion Affects Our Food’s Nutrition

Want to hear a nasty little secret about the food you are consuming? Here it is, nutrients are getting sapped from the vegetables and fruits by soil depletion.

Ronald Amundson is a professor at University of California, Berkeley. He co-authored a research paper on soil depletion in 2015. He claims that we have been disrupting the balance of the nutrient cycle ever since humans started agriculture. He said that these changes take place very slowly. In fact, these changes are so slow that it can take 2-3 generations to even notice them. That is why most people are not aware of the grave situation we are in.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that a simple carrot has little to no nutrition at all. This evident when today’s vegetables and fruits are compared to the vegetables and fruits which were used decades ago. They were much richer in terms of nutrition as they contained a higher amount of minerals and vitamins. 

The major perpetrator in this alarming trend of nutrition distribution is soil depletion. The advanced and extreme methods of agriculture have dispersed a large proportion of nutrients from the soil. Each harvest of vegetables or fruits shows a decrease in nutrient levels.

Donald Davis, along with his researcher colleagues from Department of biochemistry at University of Texas at Austin, did remarkable research on this issue in 2004. They analyzed the data for the nutritional parameters available at the U.S Department of Agriculture. They studied the data for more than 43 fruits and vegetables from 1950 to 1999. What they discovered is truly worrying. They discovered a steady decline in the proportions of calcium, protein, iron, phosphorous, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B2. Donald and his fellow researchers concluded that this increasing lack of nutrients is due, in part, to soil depletion and modern agricultural methods. 

Donald stated that due to the efforts for breeding crops with higher yield, climate adaptability, and pest resistivity, the crops grow rapidly and bigger in size. Yet, the result a lack in the ability of the crop to absorb nutrients from the soil which does not have to nutrients to keep up with the produce’s swift growth and size. Donald claimed that many other nutrients level’s, such as magnesium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, and zinc, have also declined in amount in the studied fruits and vegetables. But these cannot be reported with confidence because these were not studied before 1950 and their data is not available to establish a scientific investigation.  

So, what can we do? Or even better, what should we do? The key to a healthy production of fruits and vegetables is availability of healthy soil. Establishing a rotating cycle for field use to allow fields time of inactivity to allow for time for nutrients to be restored is an effective measure. Additionally, utilizing organic growing methods instead of fertilizers and pesticides is beneficial for the health of soil. If you desire to get the most nutritious vegetables and fruits then you should regularly buy from the local organic farmers.

References: (2018). Organic Consumers Association | Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec. 2018]. (2018). Soil Erosion – Causes and Effects. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec. 2018].

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