In today’s world we are plagued by degenerative chronic diseases that baffle modern medicine. Intestinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer are but a few of the plagues of modern man. Despite billions of dollars of research, no cures are in sight. Drugs designed to cover up and cope with the symptoms of degeneration are the only hope that is offered.
While industrial pollutants by themselves cause considerable health problems, they wouldn’t have nearly the detrimental effects if people weren’t at the same time so malnourished. It is sometimes joked amoung the health-food community that we are the best-fed malnourished people in history. The fact is malnutrition is not new in the world, especially amoung the affluent. Good nutrition is where we need to start. It is in quality foods that our healing will come.
In order to recover and maintain good health, we need to quit focusing on the toxins around us. This misdirected focus is the failure of current trends in the organic food movement. We must focus rather on obtaining and eating nutrient-dense foods. Since only prohibitions (“thou shall not”) can be legislated, no provision is made for what “thou shall do” in growing foods that heal, which are nutrient-dense foods. When we eat foods that have a lot of empty calories, and few minerals, vitamins and other nutrients, our body will lack the building blocks it needs to repair damage and destroy disease. It is not enough to just eat organic vegetables. Not only must we consume the right kinds of foods, but foods that are nutrient-dense. Following are the principles that we must follow if we are to maintain good health.
It Begins with the Soil
It is well understood that in order to grow, plants need only a handful of minerals. Provided with these minerals, they will appear to be healthy and fruitful. However, the needs of animals and people exceed that of plants. There are many minerals, vitamins and other nutrients we need that plants do not. In fact, plants require minerals only, and those minerals are a subset of what people and animals require. The remaining nutrients needed are provided by the plants themselves, provided certain trace minerals are in the soil. If these minerals are absent or deficient, the plant may be healthy, but those consuming that plant will not be. Common examples of these deficiencies are copper, selenium and cobalt. These minerals are essential to good health, yet plants do not need them. Cobalt for example is necessary for animals to make vitamin B12. Each molecule of vitamin B12 contains exactly one atom of cobalt. If there is no cobalt in the soil, plants will grow just fine, yet grazing animals would soon die. Since people can not make their own vitamin B12, any deficiency in the animals they eat would soon show up in them as well.
Plants can have sufficient minerals for good growth, yet still be lacking in sufficient quantities of the same minerals for good animal and human health. Mineral deficiencies also lead to fewer vitamins in the plants we eat. Again, the plant may do just fine, but anyone eating them suffers. In many civilizations, farmers have exhausted the soil of necessary minerals and organic matter. Farming practices throughout history often result in soil erosion and destruction of soil life. When the soil dies, usually the civilization dependent on it will also die. Likewise, America’s soils have seen considerable destruction in the last century. However, the advent of synthetic fertilizers has apparently forestalled the death of its people due to starvation for another day. Not so apparent however is the slow death occurring through degenerative diseases.
Though slowly, people are beginning to learn that while modern agriculture still produces record yields of crops, the nutrient content of those crops is lacking. As such practices continue, the situation continues to worsen. The USDA has published graphs in the past showing mineral depletions in various crops according to geographical location. Unfortunately, the farmer is not paid according to how nutritious his food is, but by the quantity he produces. This type of reward system will continue to deplete our soils of the minerals essential to good health. Unfortunately, organic standards do nothing to change this incentive.
Worsening soil conditions are not the only problem with nutrient-barren crops. Many soils have always been absent in trace minerals needed by people, such as selenium and iodine. Unless these minerals are added back to the soil, these deficiencies will continue. It is also not sufficient to simply supply enough minerals to prevent severe deficiencies. For example, thyroid disease is rampant in America today, despite the fact there is enough iodine added to table salt to prevent goiter. Minerals and vitamins adequate enough to prevent notorious diseases are not sufficient for optimal health. Furthermore, when our health is suffering, our needs for these nutrients are even greater.
We must therefore seek out and eat only foods that are nutrient-dense. In order to be nutrient-dense, the soils in which plants are grown must be mineral rich. The soils also must be balanced in minerals. That is to say, not only should minerals not be undersupplied, but there should not be any excessive amounts of minerals either. When certain minerals are found in overload, mineral toxicity can occur as well as deficiencies in other minerals due to the imbalances. Everything must be in the right proportion. Lastly, the soils must be teeming with life. Plants can only take up minerals that are dissolved in water. Soil microbes are what unlock minerals from the clay particles in the soil, making them available for plants. They also trap and hold free minerals so they don’t wash into the rivers and oceans, whereby they are gone forever, as well as polluting everything along the way.
It Continues with the Animals
Now in focusing on mineral uptake in plants, my tendency is to think of the plants I eat from the garden. However, these same principles hold for the animals we eat as well. While we want our animals to be healthy, it is not only their health that must concern us. They may be healthy, and yet still be lacking in nutrients we need for good health. For example, you can feed a steer a fair amount of grain and then slaughter him. While he didn’t live long enough to suffer any health problems from that practice, the fat in his meat is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids as well as CLAs, both of which are essential to prevent cancer.
In order to have meat, dairy products, and eggs that are nutrient-dense, we must have properly mineralized and living soils beneath our pastures as well as our plants. Furthermore, we must make sure our animals receive proper nutrition. For ruminant animals, which include cows, goats and sheep, we must make sure we don’t feed them starchy grains. Their digestive systems aren’t designed to handle starchy foods, and feeding them such things will affect their manufacture of CLAs. Non-starchy supplementation is fine and appropriate however, especially when pastures may be lacking young vegetative grass and legumes. Such supplements may include oilseeds, grain by-products, and root crops. However, even supplementation can be carried too far, for example if the supplement exceeds that of the basic food – forages. Supplements should remain as such and not become a primary food.
For non-ruminants, grain is not a problem. In fact, grain is one of the main natural foods for chickens. However, grain cannot be the sole foods for animals. Unless they also eat a considerable amount of wild foods, they will be unhealthy to eat. Here again is where the organic system is failing. By focusing on which pesticides should or should not be applied to grains that are fed to organic chickens, the way in which the chickens are raised is completely ignored. Chickens, pigs and other critters must have access to the foods that they eat in the wild. Green grass and clover (as well as the bugs that feed on this same forage) when eaten by a hen, is what makes her eggs so deep orange and tasty. They also provide the omega-3 fatty acids that prevent and heal heart disease.