“Eat your vegies” was a mantra at many a childhood dinner table. We’ve known from a young age that vegetables are a reliable, healthy staple on the dinner plate. But you may be shocked to know that the vegetables you’re eating now aren’t nearly as good for you as the ones your parents served you 50 years ago.
“The nutritional density of plant foods is 50 per cent less than it was 50 years ago,” Dr Mark Hyman told Jason Wachob on the mindbodygreen podcast. He went on to explain that our agricultural practices are to blame.
The devastating truth is that we are depleting our agricultural soil of nutrients. Australia has a particularly thin layer of topsoil. This fertile ‘skin’ is vulnerable to nutrient depletion and even moves or blows away if it is heavily disturbed. Over-tilling and overusing soil without giving it time to replenish, strips the earth of essential nutrients and minerals.
While chemical additives such as pesticides, herbicides and fungicides may make farming more efficient and produce more ‘perfect’ looking vegetables, they kill essential microbes in the soil. In good soil, microbial life is complex and rich. “In a thimbleful of really good soil, there’s more life than there have been humans ever to exist on the planet,” Dr Hyman says.
Not only are these practices contributing to large scale pollution and environmental degradation, but they also make it hard for vegetables to pull nutrients and minerals from the soil. But as demand for food increases globally, there is more pressure on the agriculture industry to prioritise quantity over quality.
Luckily, there is an alternative farming method capable of reversing land erosion, making ecosystems more resilient to droughts and fires, improving the health of soil and producing nutritionally superior food – regenerative agriculture. This style of farming focuses on biodiversity, and the strategic rotation of plant and animal farming to allow land to rejuvenate essential nutrients and avoid depletion. This can involve mimicking natural herd movements, inter-cropping and crop rotation.
“It brings back microbial life, plant life, animal diversity in the ecosystem, and it produces much more nutrient-dense food.” Dr Hyman explains, “Our current method of growing food is bad for the environment, for the climate, for humans and for the animals. It’s just bad news – but it’s totally fixable.”
Have you noticed a difference in the vegetables you’ve been eating over the past 50 years? Would you support farmers practising regenerative agriculture?
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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.