From Farm to Table: Eye Care Veggies – Part I

fresh picked vegetablesWhat you eat directly affects your health and even your vision health.  Whether you get your food from your local grocer, your community’s farmer’s market, your local CSA, or your own garden, you can eat the foods that will best support healthy vision.

Fresh versus Store-Bought

The biggest issue between store-bought and fresh produce from your own garden or your local farmer’s market is that fresh fruits and vegetables have more nutritional value than store-bought, which are often picked a week or earlier before you buy them. Vegetables and fruit which are picked when they are fully ripe have the greatest nutritional value.  It is the ripening process which achieves full development of nutritional value.

On average, produce travels 1500 to 2500 miles before it reaches your neighborhood store.  To accomplish that, they must be picked before they are completely ripe so that they reach ripeness at your store.  The entire aim of industrialized produce production is to maximize the ability of the produce to look great when it reaches your store, not to maximize nutritional value and flavor.

To that end plants are specially bred to endure shipping and long times in storage.  One study reviewed nutritional content of vegetables and fruits and reported that they contain fewer nutrients than varieties sold just 30 years ago.1  An English study reported that in a 60 year period, from 1940 to 2002, mineral micronutrient levels declined significantly.2

The irony of all this is that while fresh fruits and vegetables are more widely available than 30 to 60 years ago, what we buy now in the store does not come close to the flavor of home-grown vegetables.  Current research clearly reports that there is a close and significant link between these increased micronutrient deficiencies and our general and vision health.

A few examples:

  • Levels of vitamins A, D, E and carotenoids in milk increase if a cow is eating green grass rather than hay or feed 3
  • Carotenoid levels increase in fruits as they ripen 4
  • Vine ripened tomatoes contain higher levels of lycopene and beta-carotene than tomatoes ripened off the vine 5
  • Broccoli, an excellent source of calcium, iron, vitamins A & C, B1, B2 and B3 lost between 10% (vitamin C) and 63% (calcium) of its nutritional value.6
  • Probably the most quoted and dramatic example is that in 1951 a woman could eat 2 peaches to achieve her daily requirement of vitamin A; today she would have to eat 53 peaches for the same nutritional value.

Organic versus non-organic

Not only is there the serious issue of the pesticide, fungicide and herbicides present in non-organic foods (see a listing of the worst offenders) but mass produced crops are often irrigated with recycled wastewater which contains pharmaceuticals and personal care products.7

Not only that, in many areas animal waste from factory farms or sewage (known as “biosolids”)  is processed for safety and then added to fields as fertilizer or sold in bags at your local garden supply as “compost.”  This waste material contains antibiotics, toxic chemicals and heavy metals.  It can include chemical and biological waste from hospitals, dental offices, vet clinics and more.

The EPA only requires that treated sewage sludge have a few heavy metals removed, but other chemicals and biological pollutants remain.  Unfortunately in some areas local county waste treatment plants identify this material as ‘organic compost.’

The better alternative is to use organic sources of nutrients for your plants.  It’s easy to make compost if you have enough room (about a 20×20 foot area for materials storage and your compost bin – google it!) or products like organic fish emulsion and organic balanced fertilizers are readily available.  If your soil is either heavy clay or too sandy, then adding humus in the form of chopped leaves or other materials helps a lot.

What you can do

Your Grocer

Does your grocer display the Buy Fresh / Buy Local sign?   Do they post which vegetables and fruits are locally grown?  Take the time to ask your grocer which produce has come from less than 200 miles away.  Locally grown food is more likely to be more recently picked and picked when it is actually ripe rather being picked unripe.

Farmer’s Markets

More and more communities now have weekly farmer’s markets.  Farmer’s market vendors often sell specialty produce that you can’t buy at the grocers.  At farmer’s markets the produce usually has been picked within 24 hours of the time you buy it. You can find tasty heirloom varieties that are not bred for long-distance travel and long cold storage.

In most communities there is a requirement that the produce sold must be produced locally or within a certain number of miles from the market.  However that is not always true, so you need to make sure by asking the vendor where the produce was grown and when it was harvested.  John McPhee’s Giving Good Weight provides a fascinating look at the New York City Greenmarket of 1977, showing the work that goes into providing fresh produce in a local farmer’s market.

Here’s a searchable list of farmer’s markets across the country.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

The very best option if you don’t have your own garden is to buy from a local organic CSA (community supported agriculture).   CSAs operate by providing weekly, usually delivered, supplies of whatever produce and fruits are available, grown and harvested by the CSA  at various times of the year.   They are generally small family farms with a small set of customers.  They provide a wide variety of produce at appropriate times of year.  Because their produce is in season, it is picked when ripe.  They probably pick the food that they deliver to you that morning or the night before.

Here’s  a searchable list of CSAs in your community.

Preparing your food

You probably know already that when you boil vegetables in a lot of water and drain it you are draining away much of the nutrient value, especially for water-soluable vitamins like vitamin C, B6 and folate (a B vitamin).8  For those of you like to buy pre-chopped/shredded/pureed vegetables: antioxidant loss is great and rapid when foods are processed due to release of oxidizing enzymes.  Vegetables shouldn’t be chopped until right before they go into the pan for greatest value.  Don’t forget that juicing is a fantastic way to get nutrients.

Supplement Where Needed

Sometimes the amounts of nutrients that we get in our food, whether from our grocer or our garden are still not enough.  Why?  As we age our ability to absorb nutrients declines.  Our digestive system isn’t quite as robust.  If we are vegetarians, some nutrients, such as B12 just aren’t there in some vegetarian and most vegan diets.

So supplementation is still a good idea.   The combo of Advanced Eye & Vision Support Formula and BioMax III provides good all-around supplementation for vision and overall health. And if we know we are vulnerable for a particular vision condition due to, for example, genetics, then it just makes good sense to be doubly sure that we are receiving enough of the critical nutrients to keep our vision healthy.

Next:  Learn about which vegetables are the heroes of good eyesight.

 

  1. D.R. Davis, M. D. Epp, et al, Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2004.
  2. D. Thomas, The mineral depletion of foods available to us as a nation (1940-2002), Nutritional Health, 2007.
  3. Ramberg, MS, B. McAnalley, PhD, From the Farm to the Kitchen Table: A Review of the Nutrient Losses in Foods, GlycoScience & Nutrition, September, 2002.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ramberg & McAnalley, 2002.
  7. S. Santiago, D.M. Roll, et al, Effects of soil moisture depletion on vegetable crop uptake of pharmaceuticals and personal care products, Environmental Science and Pollution Research International, October, 2016.
  8. Ibid, Ramberg & McAnalley