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What Are Hydroponic Vegetables and How Nutritious Are They?

Hydroponic plants are grown sans soil. Instead, they’re grown in nutrient-infused water or in a non-soil medium flushed with nutrient-infused water. And because hydroponically-grown vegetables are showing up in some produce aisles, a recent article in the New York Times raised the question of whether they’re nutritious. The conclusion? Hydroponically-grown vegetables can contain as many nutrients, if not more, than soil-grown ones. This is because, as long as the water contains the right nutrients, plants make their own vitamins—regardless of whether they’re grown in water or soil. Minerals are the one thing plants can’t make on their own; however, customized nutrient solutions can help address this problem. Any mineral, be it zinc, calcium, or magnesium, can be added to the solution, making these plants (according to some), “nutritionally superior” to soil-grown ones.

Even though certain hydroponically-grown vegetables have been tested and found to be sufficient for nutrient content, not everyone agrees they’re the best way to go. One critic argues that hydroponics assume plants only need certain nutrients, whereas soil might provide a host of other nutrients or supporting interactions we don’t yet understand. Plants may also fail to develop nutrients aside from vitamins, like antioxidants, because they’re subject to less stress without the presence of soil-borne pathogens. That being said, don’t let a hydroponically-grown vegetable discourage you from eating it. Whatever the ultimate conclusion about hydroponic vegetables turns out to be, they’re still vegetables, and therefore a healthy choice.

Source: New York Times and Rodale’s Organic Life

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