What’s In Those Fruits and Vegetables?

Why should you complement your diet with vitamin and mineral supplements if you eat your recommended eight to ten fruit and vegetable servings a day? If you truly are one of those 13-20% of Americans who eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables every day, you still are not getting all the nutrition you need. Here are several reasons why.

Due to farming practices and environmental factors, the soil no longer contains the nutrients once available. For example, the mineral selenium was washed out of the upper layers of the soil during the ice ages and so is deficient in most soils worldwide. Selenium is essential for the prevention of cancer and ischemic heart disease.

Another factor is bioavailability, either due to poor intestinal absorption, proper enzyme activity, or simply the ability to eat the amount required by the body.

Enzymes are needed to convert many vitamins from food form into a bioavailable (usable by the body) form. For example, folate must be converted into folic acid before it can be used by the body. Many foods that contain folate, such as orange juice, legumes, and tomatoes, also contain components that block the enzymatic activity in the intestines necessary for the conversion of folate into folic acid. On the other hand, folic acid supplements do not need to be converted.

Recent studies have shown certain nutrients from plants prevent breast, cervical-vaginal, and skin cancer. indole-3-carbonole (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM) are derived from cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts.

However, in order to achieve beneficial effects, you would have to eat a pound or more of broccoli or cabbage a day. Maybe even more, because I3C levels in the vegetable still depend on the climate, soil and seed strain. For instance, cabbage grown in Israel has been found to contain virtually no I3C.

You also have to consider the way food is prepared when trying to attain proper nutritional levels. Freezing, cooking, and processing both fresh and canned foods alters nutritional value and dramatically increases vitamin losses.

Storage also plays a large part in the nutritional content of food. Most women who breast-feed also “pump” some for later. There is 73-79% loss of glutathione when the milk is either left at room temperature or refrigerated for two hours. Glutathione is an essential antioxidant necessary in the prevention of cancer.

Furthermore, the food we consume and the water we drink may be more of a concern than a benefit to our health (e.g. pesticides, hormones, etc). These facts suggest we need to look beyond our diet to obtain sufficient supplies of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

– Elizabeth Grady, N.M.D.

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