92 of 96 Essential Vitamins and Minerals?

Like many nutritionists, I find myself frequenting my local farmer's market with joy each weekend in the hot summer. This past weekend was no different. I bought a bevy of berries, peppers, onions, garlic and all kinds of phytonutrient-rich foods.

In the midst of my shopping I walked up to a wheatgrass seller. I'll let the company be nameless because my goal is not to take them down. Instead, as a professor of food marketing, consultant and plant-based eater myself, I need to point out a big problem in the world of healthier eating - and that's credibility or lack thereof. 

 Wheatgrass ready to be turned into those potent shots

Wheatgrass ready to be turned into those potent shots

I decided to order up one wheatgrass shot because I wanted to taste it for myself. 

I do juice kale and other leafy greens regularly at home, but wheatgrass was new territory for me. So I purchased a 1 ounce shot served dutifully in a cheap paper cup, and forked over my three dollars. My first swig of grassiness goes down nicely (the taste incidentally is quite good and well grassy, though there is an unpleasant overly sweet after taste). The seller quickly tells me that one shot provides 92 of the 96 essential vitamins and minerals. Really? 

And btw - since when are there 96 essential vitamins and minerals? 

And which four are left out I asked?  He replied that wheatgrass oxygenates the blood you know. Really? And what is the mechanism of action I asked? When pressed, he said "well I don't know but that is what our Dad tells us to say to customers."  His sister, who also works in the stall, tells me to "just look it up on the internet" as if that should seal the deal of my curiosity.

I turned to my left and lo and behold I was standing next to two PhDs - one in physiology and the other in some systems biology from Yale.  No dummies in other words.  And there I was with my PhD in nutritional biochemistry from Tufts.  Our eyes all met and without words we knew we all just stumbled squarely upon the problem of nutrition product marketing. Credible science is passed over for incredible marketing, all leaving the consumer to decide what to eat and drink and who to trust. 

I wish I could tell you I have all the answers to this conundrum. I don't. What I can say though is to trust your gut. Do you really think you can get "92 essential vitamins and minerals" in one lone ounce of green? I didn't think so. The more implausible it sounds, the quicker you need to run and go buy some leafy greens elsewhere. 

In other news, I learned today that 88% of consumers worldwide are not getting the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables based o new research in the British Journal of Nutrition

We have our phytonutrient work cut out for us.