Declining Nutrients in Fruits and Vegetables and How to Compensate

Declining nutrients in fruits and vegetables


Is food less nutritious than in past times? One reason people eat fruits and vegetables is for the health benefits they offer. Colorful produce is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. But is the nutrient content of the produce we depend on for nutrients and fiber diminishing? Are you get fewer nutrients when you eat a fruit or vegetable than decades ago?

Unfortunately, the average fruit or vegetable has fewer nutrients than it did in previous decades. But this doesn’t mean you should stop eating them —it means you should choose your produce wisely and eat even more fresh produce.

Why Are Fruits and Vegetables Less Nutritious Than in Previous Decades?

There are a variety of factors contributing to the declining nutritional value of fruits and vegetables. The soil that crops grow in is slowly depleting from years of over-farming and intensive crop production, reducing the nutrient density of once nutrient-dense plants.

Soil is the foundation for all life. It provides the food we eat with nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. But in recent years, there’s been a decline in soil health and fertility around the world. According to nutritionfacts.org, the nutrients in crops have declined by 15%.

Plus, fruits and vegetables lose nutrients, particularly vitamin C and some B-vitamins, when they travel long distances to market. From there, they sit on store shelves under bright lights, which leads to further nutrient loss. So, not only are fruits and vegetables less nutritious than they were decades ago when pulled from the ground, but they lose more nutrients during delivery to supermarkets.

Plus, the food industry plays a role.  People eat more processed foods that contain fewer nutrients than fresh produce does. So, the average nutrient intake of humans in Western countries has declined over the years.

The Problem of Soil Depletion

How bad is the soil depletion problem?  The United States has lost 50 percent of its topsoil since the beginning of agriculture, and this affects the nutritional benefits of produce.  Soil depletion impacts crops. Plants need nutrients to grow, and as the soil becomes more depleted, fruits and vegetables contain fewer nutrients than they did.

What Does Science Say about the Diminishing Nutrient Content of Fruits and Vegetables?

You might wonder if there’s confirmation of nutrient decline in fresh produce. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin investigated this issue and confirmed a drop in the nutrient density of fresh produce. After analyzing the nutritional content of 43 types of produce, the researchers compared it to data from 1950 to 1999, a gap of 50 years. They found the level of many nutrients has declined, including some B-vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and protein. The greatest drop (a 38% decline) was noted for riboflavin, a type of B-vitamin.

Keep Filling Your Plate with Produce

Don’t let this news cause you to abandon healthy eating habits. Fruit and veggies are still good for you, but they’re lower in nutrients than they once were. Experts still recommend filling your plate with plenty of fruits and veggies even though they’re less nutritious than decades ago because non-starchy veggies are low in calories and contain vitamins and minerals and fiber.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily but with nutrient density dropping, add a few extra servings to your plate to ensure you’re getting the full nutritional value of the produce you eat.

Some people add a multi-vitamin to their diet to make up for nutritional deficiencies. However, keep in mind that multivitamins are not a substitute for a healthy diet or exercise. They won’t make up for living a sedentary lifestyle or eating poorly—they’re only meant to supplement good habits that you already have. And if you have any serious medical conditions, speak with your doctor before taking vitamins or supplements (including multivitamins).

Also, remember that the nutrient content of fruits and vegetables can vary depending on where the produce grows. Buy local produce from farmer’s markets to reduce nutrient loss related to transportation.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

To get the benefits of fresh produce in a world where soil nutrients are depleted, find ways to add more produce to your plate. Here are some ideas:

  • Eat a bowl full of berries for breakfast, or add berries to your cereal, yogurt, or oatmeal.
  • Fill half of your plate with veggies at dinner. If they’re not cooked through to your liking, steam them lightly before serving them up.
  • Use fruit as a natural sweetener in smoothies and baked goods instead of added sugars like honey or maple syrup.
  • Add chopped bell peppers to soups, stews, and casseroles for extra color and flavor without adding calories or fat.
  • Eat more than one kind of produce at each meal.
  • Try one new vegetable or fruit each week. A great way to make sure you get enough fruits and veggies is to try something different every week!
  • Enjoy raw veggies as crudités (raw veggies) with hummus dip when entertaining guests at home or parties at work or school events.
  • Use fruit plates for snacks, instead of cookies or chips.
  • Create a veggie casserole with beans and grains.
  • Try adding more veggies to pastas and salads (think avocado, roasted garlic, or beets)

Another tip: eat as much of each fruit and vegetable as you can. For example, most people eat broccoli florets and discard the stems, but the stems are nutrient-dense too and may contain slightly more minerals, including calcium and iron. But eat the florets too, as they contain more vitamin A.  Take advantage of every bite of nutritional goodness you get from the fruits and vegetables you eat – and eat more of them.


Don’t give up on fruits and vegetables. Eat more of them and buy from local sources like farmer’s markets for the freshest, most nutritious produce.


FRUITS AND VEGETABLES HAVE MUCH FEWER MINERALS AND VITAMINS THAN DECADES AGO, THIS IS WHY. theupdatelinks.com. Published June 11, 2022. Accessed July 6, 2022. https://bizarreart.news460media.com/blog/fruits-and-vegetables-have-much-fewer-minerals-and-vitamins-than-decades-ago-this-is-why/1615/

“How to Eat More Fruit and Vegetables | American Heart Association.” 17 Feb. 2017, heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/add-color/how-to-eat-more-fruits-and-vegetables.

Study supports “5-a-day” recommendations for fruits and vegetables | NHLBI, NIH. Nih.gov. Published March 9, 2021. Accessed July 6, 2022. nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2021/study-supports-5-day-recommendations-fruits-and-vegetables

NBC News. “Nutritional Value of Fruits, Vegetables Diminishing”

Crop Nutrient Decline. @nutrition_facts. Published November 10, 2010. Accessed August 1, 2022. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/crop-nutrient-decline/

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