Nutrition is a hot topic. It seems like every day there’s a claim about a miracle food or a wonder supplement. But how is the modern diet deficient? Why is it so poor in nutrients?

Kamal Patel, MPh, MBA, director of and a nutrition researcher with an MPh and MBA from Johns Hopkins University, compares today’s diets with those of a hundred years ago.

Eating the Same Things

The food categories we eat now are much more homogenous. Wheat, corn and vegetable oils make up a huge portion of our diet. These foods (or food products, when it comes to high-fructose corn syrup, etc.) are rather low in vitamins and minerals and lack potentially beneficial phytochemicals found in other plants.

The Prevalence of Processed Foods

We also eat a lot more processed foods these days. The simple act of processing a food is not harmful. But when we grind certain foods down to a powder (like wheat flour) and make that a large portion of our diet, we take in a lot of “acellular carbohydrates” (Spreadbury 2012). (Plants and animals have cells, which contain water, but when we eat dried, powdered grains, a lot of acellular carbohydrate enters the gut all at once, which may predispose some people to health issues.)

Soil Is Less Mineral-Rich

The plants we eat (and the ones animals eat, which become our meat) grow in soil that’s less mineral-rich than it used to be (Davis, Epp & Riordan 2004). Moreover, roughly half of Americans may be drinking tap water that’s low in magnesium and/or calcium. This may be important, given the potential for high-mineral water to help protect against cardiovascular disease (Azoulay, Garzon & Eisenberg 2001).