Micronutrient deficiency

By Efrosini Costa

Micronutrient deficiency
An apple a day may no longer keep the doctor away, as experts warn the nutritional value of our everyday foods has dropped significantly in the last few decades.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) a lack of essential vitamins and nutrients, which used to be found abundantly in a well balanced diet, is contributing to a global disease burden.

Studies performed on all kinds of produce – from broccoli, to tomatoes, spinach and even apples, have displayed a reduction in their nutritional content since the 1960s, including a drop in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and other micronutirent components.

Year after year of producing higher yields of food to keep up with global demand, has increased the amount of food at our disposal – but at a cost to our health, with fewer nutrients than ever before being consumed.

This phenomenon of nutrient-poor produce has caused millions across the world to become overfed but undernourished.

By continually consuming foods rich in macronutients, such as carbohydrates, protein and fats we miss out on essential micronutrients including the minerals iron, copper, iodine, manganese, zinc and vitamins C, A, D, E K, and B – all of which are vital to our overall health and wellbeing.

Without these essentials, our bodies become trapped in a state of nutrient deficiency, causing stress and strain to our vital organs. Interestingly, despite consuming enough calories, we can also begin to feel unsatisfied; our body’s natural way of telling us we are missing out on something. This can also compromise our long-term health, leaving us susceptible to more infections and diseases.

In recent years, some countries have chosen to address the lack of micronutrients in a daily diet through food fortification, a process that attempts to enrich food such as flour, milk and sugar – by adding micronutrients to food. Food fortification does not affect the taste or look of foods, but boosts their nutritional value.

Food fortification is happening at home as well, with iodised salt now the norm in most households – addressing a dramatic increase in iodine deficiency across the population.

Though food fortification does provide a short-term solution, the bad news is, if we continue to demand high quantities of mass-produced food, their nutritional value could continue to fall year after year.

However, the food choices we make could help to combat the negative health effects of a larger food system. Many argue that the answer is to choose and consume sustainably, including growing our own organic produce. 

Studies have shown these types of produce have remarkably higher levels of critical micronutrients. While the organic produce may cost more per calorie, it will cost you less per nutrient, and satisfy you better. The positive effects don’t stop there, with organic produce a better health alternative for the planet too.



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