Swiss Federal Research Station for Fruit-Growing, Viticulture and Horticulture, Wädenswil

Were vegetables more nutritious in former times?

The headline “fruits and vegetables diminished in their nutritional quality” appeared in recent years in the media. The claimed quality loss was supposedly related to changes in agricultural practice and depletion of the soil. The comparison of contents of nine minerals and eleven vitamins of the 7 most important vegetables as published in three different food composition databases suggested that hardly any changes occurred during the last 20 to 40 years. Apparent significant reductions were indicated for magnesium (-28%), copper (-57%), vitamin B2 (-30%) and vitamin C (-22%). However, these changes may be related to anomalies of sampling or analyses. Vegetable production has undergone many changes in the last four to five decades. Though no detrimental effects on nutritional quality of vegetables could be deduced. In modern diet vegetables continue to provide adequate quantities of minerals and vitamins as in the past.

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