Modern Agriculture is Depleting Nutrients in Fruits and Vegetables

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Studies are showing that fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from our food. Biochemist Donald Davis and his team studied the U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding declines in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B2 and vitamin C over the past half century. In a second study, Davis compared nutrients between fruits and vegetables harvested in 1950 and 2009 and discovered that there was a 15% decrease in vitamin C, 15% in iron, 38% in vitamin B2, 16% in calcium, 6% in protein, and 9% in phosphorous.

The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion, which is related to industrial farming methods that focus on high-yielding crops to maximize profits. High-yield crops produce more food, but they can’t make or absorb nutrients at the same pace, so nutrition is diluted. A main key to healthier produce is healthier soil. The land must be given time to restore by alternating fields between growing seasons. Chemical pesticides, GMOs and fertilizers should also be abandoned in favor of organic means. Recent studies showed that organically produced apples have a 15 percent higher antioxidant capacity than conventionally produced apples.

Most of us eat too much fat, sugar, salt and processed food. Fruits and vegetables are still our best source for nutrients and it is even more beneficial to choose crops that are grown organically because they are more nutrient-dense compared to conventional produce. Happy eating.


Marco Torres. “Fruits and Vegetables Reaching an Alarming State of Nutrient Depletion.” Prevent Disease, October 19, 2015,

Mark Jason Alcala. “Fruits and Vegetables Declining in Nutrients.” Food World News, March 6, 2016,

Student Researcher: Nguyet (Kelley) Thi Luu (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)