Let’s face facts. It’s hard to eat as many fruits and vegetables per day as you’re supposed to. And the recommendations are always changing -- An apple a day… 5 cups of fruit a day… 9 whole servings a day -- how much is enough?
It seems like the number keeps climbing on how many servings of fruits and vegetables you are supposed to be eating every day. Truth is, it might keep climbing due to one very unsettling fact – the fruits and vegetables we commonly eat today are becoming less nutritious.
What does that mean? It means that back when your grandmother first told you that an apple a day would keep the doctor away – it was more true then than it is now.
This sounds like the beginning of a horror story, or the start of a science-fiction novel about how we all have to leave earth and explore other planets for new and fertile soil.
But the secret to combating the decline of nutrition in your favorite piece of produce is a simple one: switch to more nutritious varieties of common fruits and vegetables.
The Blacker the Berry...
Here’s a tip that goes for all natural produce – the darker the color, the richer the nutrients. But this advice doesn’t just apply to berries or other fruits.
Take corn, for example. When you think of corn, you probably think of bright yellow kernels. But yellow sweetcorn is actually one of the less nutritious varieties of corn out there. Instead, blue corn, which you most likely recognize as Thanksgiving and Harvest decorations, is what you should swap out for yellow sweetcorn. Comparing the two cobs together, yellow corn has only 3% of the anthocyanins found in blue corn. Anthocyanins help fight off illnesses and ailments that your body may normally be prone to. Can yellow corn do that too? Yes, but not nearly as powerfully as blue corn can.
This same thinking applies to carrots. The average orange carrot is nutritious, yes of course, but what has more nutritional value is the purple carrot (yes, it’s a real thing).
Purple carrots have almost 30 times more nutrient value than the average orange carrot! That’s a pretty steep difference.
So, why do darker-colored variations of our favorite produce lead to more nutrition? It's not the colors, but the chemicals behind the colors -- those anthocyanins.
"Most prominent among the flavonoids are the anthocyanins—universal plant colorants responsible for the red, purple, and blue hues evident in many fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, and flowers" writes researchers Izabela Konczak and Wei Zhang.
"...The consumption of anthocyanins may play a significant role in preventing lifestyle-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular and neurological diseases."
...The Sweeter the Juice
Yes, it is true that many common “healthy foods,” like certain fruits and vegetables, are in fact losing their nutritional benefits. But many of these items have less popular ancestors or variations that have retained their nutrition over time. Although rarer and harder to find, they contain tons more benefits and nutritional value than many popular and more common varieties. Apples, berries, grains, rice -- pretty much everything that comes from the ground has a shocking amount of variations, many of them rich in natural nutrients. It’s just a matter of locating them.
Variety is the spice of life, and if you open yourself up to new foods, you just might find a new favorite. So the next time you’re at the grocery store, go ahead, give that purple carrot a try.
Scheer, R. and Moss, D. “Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?” Scientific American. April 2011.
Jones, K. “The Potential Health Benefits of Purple Corn.” HerbalGram. 2005; 65:46-49. American Botanical Council.
Konczak, Izabela, and Wei Zhang. “Anthocyanins—More Than Nature’s Colours.” Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2004.5 (2004): 239–240. PMC. Web. 4 Oct. 2017.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.