What Can be Done to Increase the Nutrients in Our Food?
To some extent, if crop breeders focus on nutrient value a little more, they can increase nutrient value of crops without changing yield much.
Additionally, switching to organic food more is an option.
“Moreover, given that part of nutrient decline has resulted from farmers pushing crops towards maximum yields, changing certain farming strategies should help reverse the decline. For instance, although organic farming results in lower yields in many cases, studies show that it also tends to produce crops with higher concentrations of micronutrients, phytochemicals and other health-promoting compounds. The increases range from a few percent to sometimes 20 percent or more for certain minerals, and on average, about 30 percent in the case of antioxidants.
Some studies have reported even more dramatic differences in concentrations of specific phytochemicals—for example, nearly twice as much of two common antioxidants in organic tomatoes compared to conventional tomatoes. Organic forms of fertilizer, like manure or cover crops that offer more balanced mixes of nutrients
and release the nutrients more gradually, encourage plants to develop more robust root systems that more aggressively absorb nutrients. At the same time, for a wide range of fruits, vegetables and grains, reducing pesticide use has been shown to boost phytochemical content, sometimes dramatically.
Might this general nutritional superiority of organic produce help justify the premium that consumers typically pay for organic food, or government policies to encourage a shift towards organic practices? Clearly, advantages linked to organic management will vary depending on the crop, soil quality and growing conditions, as well as on the technologies, inputs and systems in use on nearby conventional farms growing the same crop.”
Whatever the solution, in order to achieve the goal, the focus on producing higher yields needs to at least be balanced with a focus on maintaining or improving nutrient levels of our food.
Image Credit: Bruno. C. via flickr/CC license