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Scientific Aspects of Agnihotra: Agriculture - Food Quality

      For good health, proper diet with nutritious vegetables, fruits, and grains is of great importance. But it seems that with the food produced nowadays our bodies often do not get all the micronutrients they need to maintain good health. Several recent studies show that there is a decline in nutritional value of vegetables, fruits, and grains.

A Scientific American article summarizes several such studies which compare the nutrient levels of food nowadays with tables of nutrient content 50 to 70 years ago.

One study showed that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent. Another study comparing nutrient levels of 20 vegetables found that the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. Yet another study concluded that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one.
(See:www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-and-nutrition-loss)

Other studies cited by Worldwatch Institute report that today’s food produces 10 to 25 percent less iron, zinc, protein, calcium, vitamin C, and other nutrients. Researchers from Washington State University who analyzed 63 spring wheat cultivars grown between 1842 and 2003 found an 11 percent decline in iron content, a 16 percent decline in copper, a 25 percent decline in zinc, and a 50 percent decline in selenium.
(http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5339)

The decline of nutritional value of our foods not only refers to minerals and vitamins. There is also a loss in phytonutrients, most of them less known to most of us – but they play an important role for preventing disease and maintaining good health. These plant extracts show antioxidant, bactericidal, and antimicrobial effects.
A lack of nutrition in our foods leads to a number of diseases and ailments.
Human health conditions such as chronic coronary thrombosis, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, old age, and lifestyle-related diseases are associated with the diet. Declining food quality can thus be one reason why such lifestyle diseases are increasing in the last decades.

Several theories have been suggested to explain the decline in food quality. The main reasons for that seem to be:
- Soil depletion (remember – we have talked about that subject earlier)
- Changes in cultivated varieties:
nowadays are mostly growing high-yielding varieties which are less nutritious than the plants being used earlier.
-Agrochemicals used in conventional farming: a 2001 review study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, shows that nutrient levels, including vitamin C, are lower in crops grown with chemical fertilisers. Organic spinach, lettuce, cabbage and potatoes showed relatively high levels. Commenting on this study one scientist explained: „Unlike minerals, vitamins and antioxidants are not supplied by the soil, so you cannot add them using fertilisers. They are produced by the plants themselves and are natural pest-defense compounds, part of a range of chemicals we are just beginning to understand. Studies have shown that levels are up to 40 per cent higher in organic produce. If you're using artificial pesticides, plants don't have to produce these protective chemicals. Levels in non-organic foods are likely to be lower.“
(From The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/may/15/foodanddrink.shopping3)
In the next blog we will see whether Homa Farming has a positive effect on the nutritional value also.
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