Do vegetables need vitamins?

Many of you may remember the comic strip from the 1960s called “Popeye the sailor man.” After eating a can of spinach he was infused with power enabling him to fight off the bad guys trying to steal his girl friend Olive.

Popeye was built around the popular perception of the time that spinach was a super food.

But there has been a radical change over the last fifty years. Back then, Popeye was able to burst a can of spinach with his bare hands, while today we resort to automatic can openers to accomplish the same feat.

Maybe our move to automation is just a coincidence, but according to a US study, there was a dramatic decline in the nutritional value of spinach over the last 50 years — a 45% reduction in Vitamin C, a 17% decline in Vitamin A and a 10% decline in Magnesium.

Spinach just doesn’t have the same zip it used to have. But the decline is not limited to just spinach.

Food nutrition bottoming out

Three nutritional studies in Canada, the United States and England have all reported dramatic declines in the nutritional value of vegetables and fruit.

So how bad is it?

Canadian results

In 2002, the Globe and Mail and CTV News analyzed the nutritional content of vegetables based on data compiled by government researchers in 1951, 1972 and 1999. In his article, “Today’s fruits, vegetables lack yesterday’s nutrition”, the Globe and Mail’s Andre Picard reported significant drops in the vitamin and mineral content of Canadian vegetables.

Potatoes, a staple of our North American diet lost:

  • Nearly 100% of its Vitamin A content (necessary for good eyesight)
  • 28% of its calcium (necessary for bone health)
  • 57% of its iron and calcium (important for good blood)
  • 50% of its riboflavin, and
  • 18% of its thiamine

Overall, this analysis revealed that 80% of Canadian vegetables studied showed reductions in calcium, 75% reductions in Vitamin A, 50% in Vitamin C and riboflavin and 30% in thiamine.

In his article, Picard noted, “In the analysis, the biggest loser was broccoli, a food that epitomizes the dictates of healthy eating. All seven of its measurable nutrients declined, notably calcium, which fell 63 per cent, and iron which dropped 34 per cent. Broccoli is often cited as an excellent source of calcium and iron.”

American studies

In the US, things are not much better. Dr. Donald Davis at the University of Texas compared the nutritional values of 43 vegetables in 1950 with those in 1999  — this included such mainstays as broccoli, peas, carrots, cauliflower, onion, potatoes and corn.

Overall, he discovered:

  • Iron down 15%; and
  • Ascorbic acids down 15%.

Nutritionist Alex Jack had similar results when comparing nutritional data released by the US Department of Agriculture in 1975 with 2000 data.

In just 25 years:

  • Broccoli had a 50% drop in Calcium; and
  • Cauliflower a 40% drop in Vitamin C

When he went back to 1963, the results were even more disturbing:

Corn — a mainstay of the American diet — had seen its Vitamin C decline by 41%, its Vitamin A was down 29%, Calcium 33% and Magnesium 23%.

English study

A report by Dr. Frank M Painter of England, using government data (1940 and 1991), showed the nutritional value of food plummeting there as well. Dr. Painter said to get the same amount of iron out of an orange grown in 1940, you would need to eat three today and for iron you would need eight.

The overall mineral drop in vegetables in that country was significant — magnesium was down 25%, calcium down 46% and copper 75%.

Why the nutritional decline?

So what is causing the nutrition decline?  According to these studies there are three main factors:

1. Vegetables are being grown much quicker, than the past. The faster they grow the less time they have to absorb minerals. Though the high nitrogen fertilizer stimulates growth and provides increased yields, the plant fills its produce with water instead of minerals.

2. This is compounded by the declining mineral content of the soil itself because of overgrowing. In some instances, the land has been emptied of meaningful nutrients and serves as little more than a container to hold the plants. If minerals are not added to the soil by the growers, there is little for the plants to absorb.

3. Crops are being genetically modified to grow faster, be more resistant to disease and appear more appealing to consumers. Unfortunately, these changes have in many cases actually contributed to the nutritional decline of the produce they are supposedly improving.

Thought, produce may appear better, looks are deceiving. But curiously, there are a couple vegetables that have bucked this trend. Carrots and pumpkins have more nutrition in them than 50 years ago. The reason is that growers wanted to enhance the orange color to make them more presentable to consumers. Since the color was based on its mineral content, it resulted in an unintentional increase in nutritional value.

The bad news gets worse

As if this nutritional decline wasn’t bad enough, Health Canada recommends that we eat between 3-5 separate servings of vegetables each day. According to studies, only 20% of Canadians are actually doing this.

Unfortunately, this recommendation was made when a vegetable was still a vegetable.

Professor Mike Lean who teaches nutrition at Glasgow University summed it up this way: “Advice at the moment is to eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables combined every day. Maybe we should be eating considerably more.”

So what can you do about this?

In 2008, the American Medical Association recommended people take daily vitamin and mineral supplements as people are not eating the required daily amount of vegetables and fruits.

But not all supplements are created equal.

Traditional mineral supplements are notoriously difficult for the body to absorb as minerals tend crystallize after eating and simply pass through the body. In some cases, you might as well eat the plastic container for all your body benefits from the minerals inside.

Over the past number of years, Melaleuca has wrestled with increasing the absorption rate for its  supplements. In August 2008, Melaleuca announced a breakthrough in the delivery of vitamins and minerals called “oligofructose complex.”

In a nutshell, vitamins and minerals found in fruit and vegetables are encased in proteins and fibers and easily digested and absorbed by the human body.  Melaleuca scientists copied this and fused their mineral and vitamins in organic material mimicking this natural process.

This new patent-pending process had a dramatic effect on how our bodies handled Melaleuca vitamins and minerals. Instead of crystallizing, they remained soluble increasing the opportunity for absorption through the small intestine.

Laboratory studies showed that Melaleuca vitamins were “9 times more soluble” than other popular brands such as Centrum and One-a-day.

My wife had been taking vitamins for years, but it wasn’t until she started taking Melaleuca did she notice a dynamic increase in her energy levels. If you are looking for quality vitamins, try Melaleuca.


If you would like more information on Melaleuca’s great line of natural products check out their contact us.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These articles and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.



  1. Today’s fruits and vegetables lack yesterday’s nutrition by Andre Picard (Globe and Mail, July 6, 2003)
  2. New UK study shows decline in fruit and vegetable mineral content by Dr. Frank M Painter D.C. (
  3. Vegetables without vitamins (LE Magazine March 2001)
  4. Declining nutritional value of produce due to high yield selective breeding by Vicki Godal (
  5. Fruits and vegetables not as nutritious as fifty years ago by Lance Gay (Seattle Post-Intelligencer: March 1, 2006)
  6. Oligofructose Complex Research Published in Esteemed Scientific Journal (Leadership in Action: December 2008)

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 June 2009 15:47