Key Terms and Definitions Synthesize nutrients: To absorb nutrients from the soil. Selective breeding: The making of deliberate crosses or mating of organisms in order that the offspring will have a desired characteristic derived from one of the parents.
Synthetic fertilizers: Commercially prepared mixtures of nitrates, phosphates, and potassium applied to the soil to restore fertility and increase crop yields. Phytochemicals / Phytonutrients: Plant derived antioxidant active compounds that have health-protecting qualities.
Conventionally grown produce is not as healthful as it was 30 years ago. In 2004 researchers analyzed 43 fruits and vegetables from 1950 to 1999, they found reductions in vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
Using USDA data, researchers found that broccoli had 130 mg of calcium in 1950. Today, that number is only 48 mg.
Selective breeding and synthetic fertilizers decrease the produce's ability to synthesize nutrients from the soil.
When synthetic fertilizers are not used, plants experience stress. Plants in stress produce phytochemicals. Organic tomatoes can have as much as 30% more phytochemicals than conventional tomatoes.
1. Look for Strong Colors A richly colored skin indicates a higher count of healthy phytochemicals.
2. Pair Your Produce When eaten together, some produce contains compounds that can positively affect how we absorb their nutrients. The combination of tomato-based salsa and avocado increases the body's absorption of lycopene, a cancer-fighting nutrient.
3. Buy Smaller Items Vegetables have a set amount of nutrients passed on to them, so when the produce is smaller, then its level of nutrients are more concentrated.
4. Cook Smarter Certain vegetables release more nutrients when cooked. Broccoli and carrots are more nutritious when steamed than when raw or boiled. Tomatoes release more lycopene when they are lightly sautéed or roasted.
5. Eat Within a Week Nutrients in most fruits and vegetables start to diminish as soon as they're picked, so for optimal nutrition, eat all produce within 1 week of buying.
6. Skip Time-Savers When produce is sliced, peeled or shredded, and shipped to stores, the nutrients are significantly reduced.
7. Mix Them Up Different varieties contain different nutrient levels. When you differentiate your diet, you get more vitamins and minerals.
8. Opt for Old-Timers Plants bred prior to World War II are hardier because they were established before the use of modern fertilizers and pesticides. Brandywine tomatoes, Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, Golden Bantam corn, or Jenny Lind melon.
9. Find a Farmers' Market Produce has been given the proper amount of time to ripen. Fully ripened produce has more absorbable phytonutrients and higer amounts of concentrated antioxidant compounds.