Friday, January 9, 2009

Nutritional Value of Food

Many people today are storing food against hard times. We’re buying storable grains, canned fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, vegetables and meats, and freeze-dried storable foods as well. This is only prudent. I lived in an upstate New York city that was prone to huge snowfalls and ice storms. When a storm blew in, you might be stuck in your house for days on end. You had better have some food and water stored for those times.

And it isn’t hard to store food up against bad times, whether it be a winter storm, hurricane, a job layoff, another depression. Even folks without very much money can buy cans of food here and there and keep it on hand. Ditto with water.

But there is something else about food that people need to be aware of. And that is, today’s food holds less nutritional value than food did decades ago. Due to modern big business agricultural methods, the soil is no longer mineral-dense. As the quality of the soil has declined, so has the nutritional value in our foods.

In my research I found a couple of articles that explain this issue well. Of course, I’m biased toward organic farming methods, herbs rather than pharmaceuticals, traditional folk remedies rather than high-priced, intrusive allopathic medicine practices, whole, real, God-made foods rather than processed, chemical crap posing as food, etc. If you’re a reader of this blog, you should be aware that I’m not at all impartial about this. Just something to keep in mind.

If you are interested in the nutritional value of your foods, stored or otherwise, then do read all of the following articles. Interesting reading, to say the least. However, I’ve pulled a couple of pertinent quotes that get the point across.

The first article is called Human Health, the Nutritional Quality of Harvested Food, and Sustainable Farming Systems by John B.Marler and Jeanne R.Wallin

Food grown in nutrient deficient soil lacks the nutrients needed to keep people healthy. Studies reveal that the nutritional values in food have declined significantly over the past 70 years. The declines in the nutritional values in food have been attributed to mineral depletion of the soil, loss of soil microorganisms along with changes in plant varieties.

Without adequate nutrition from food, we become susceptible to disease. Simply stated … a lack of nutrients leads to malnutrition … malnutrition leads to disease. Wellness stems from eating nutrient rich, flavorful food. A critical need exists to provide assurance of the nutritional values in the food we eat.

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According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans typically lack a sufficient amount of the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and the vitamins A, C, D and E needed to maintain good health. As an example, calcium is essential for the formation of blood clots, the transmission of nerve impulses, as a metabolic cofactor to release energy from macronutrients, for maintaining a rhythmic heart rate and controlling concentrations of substances on differing sides of cell membranes throughout the body. Mild calcium deficiencies can cause heart palpitations, insomnia, irritability, nerve sensitivity, muscle twitching, mental confusion and a feeling of depression.

Serious calcium deficiencies can lead to bone loss, a common health problem. Other mineral deficiencies lead to a host of well documented health problems. Without adequate nutrition, especially minerals, research has shown that people develop chronic health conditions. More and more nutritional studies have linked many of today’s most prevalent, life threatening chromic diseases – diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, macular degeneration, bone loss, dementia to nutritional deficiencies. Research is finding simple nutrition may eradicate many of these common conditions as it has with scurvy, pellagra, beriberi and others. The simple truth may be that susceptibility to disease is linked to either toxicity or nutritional deficiency. Increasingly, scientific research has shown that the secret to life-long health is good nutrition.

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The decline in the nutritional quality of food has been linked to production methods that result in soil degradation or the “mining” of soil fertility. Globally, the Green Revolution of the past 50 years has resulted in the use of large amounts of petroleum based, synthetic fertilizers to increase productivity. To increase yields, a vast over-application of inorganic, synthetic nitrogen has been applied to farmland. This over-application of labile, inorganic nitrogen stimulated the soil microbes and resulted in the destruction of the natural balance of carbon reserves in the soil.

With the destruction of moisture holding carbon, soils have lost the ability to grow healthy plants and to hold moisture. Along with losing the ability to hold nutrients, the bio-availability of minerals for plant growth has been significantly decreased as a result of the accelerated withdrawal of minerals from the soil without corresponding additions.

The second article to take a look at is A Sharp Decline of Nutrients in Our Food

Vital vitamins and minerals have dramatically declined in some of our most popular foods, including potatoes, tomatoes, bananas and apples, the analysis reveals. Take the potato, by far the most consumed food in Canada. The average spud has lost 100 per cent of its vitamin A, which is important for good eyesight; 57 per cent of its vitamin C and iron, a key component of healthy blood; and 28 per cent of its calcium, essential for building healthy bones and teeth. It also lost 50 per cent of its riboflavin and 18 per cent of its thiamine. Of the seven key nutrients measured, only niacin levels have increased.

The story is similar for 25 fruits and vegetables that were analyzed.

And just one more article, Taste, nutrients decline as size of crops grow

Donald Davis, a senior researcher at the University of Texas, did some of the most illuminating research into the disappearing nutrients.

He compared Agriculture Department figures on nutrient content for 43 common fruits and vegetables.

Davis says historical data spanning 50 to 70 years show apparent declines of 5 percent to 40 percent or more in minerals, vitamins and proteins in groups of foods, especially vegetables.
Higher-yield crops also decrease the concentrations of cancer-fighting chemicals and anti-toxins -- known as phytonutrients or phytochemicals. Food scientists have identified the benefits of only a few of these.

"We are beginning to understand how valuable these phytochemicals actually are," Davis said. "We can only guess what the loss of these from high-yield farming will mean to the health of the consumer."

So yes, if we value our health, and we'd better, we need to focus on the nutritional value of our foods, and ways we can increase the nutritients available to us by certain, simple techniques. In my next few posts, I'll be discussing these techniques, but I'll provide a short list here:

1. Make bone broths for a mineral-rich, nutrient-dense soup base.

2. Sprouting seeds

3. Lactic fermentation

4. Tonics: rejuvelac, beet kvass, fermented herb drinks, etc.

These things all increase the nutritional value in the basic foods, or they make the available nutrients more available for your body to use. Besides producing good flavor and attractive foods, these techniques all "kick it up a notch" "BAM" as Emeril says.

If readers out there know of other methods, please let me know in the comments. I'd like to learn as many ways of making our foods even better for us as I can. These are only the ones I've thought of or discovered in my reading. I'm certainly willing to learn more, so please do comment. Thanks,

HM




5 comments:

sunni said...

Thank you for this post! I've been wondering about this issue for some time now, but hadn't done any research on it.

I just recently discovered kombucha at our local food co-op. It's a fermented drink that can be made in a variety of flavors, apparently. I'm hoping to learn how to make it at home, but I need some equipment first.

As far as adding to your list, for those who eat meat, try to find local producers who care for their animals properly, rather than the feedlot method (which strikes me as the equivalent of plant agribusiness relying on chemical fertilizers, etc.). Buffalo is said to be more nutritious than beef.

dccdmom said...

I think this is behind at least part of America's obesity epidemic. Our bodies aren't getting the right mix of vitamins and minerals from our food, so they tell us we're still hungry. We've noticed a huge drop in the quantity of food we eat since we switched to whole grains and home grown veggies.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Great post. I think most of the chronic health problems of modern day can be traced to this.

Organic farms aren't too much better, relying on shipped in fertilizing materials that grow the food, but most of the soil practices aren't really that much different than conventional farming practices. They are just trading one type of material for another.

We raise our own food, and buy quality minerals for our cattle, so the compost we make to replenish the soil with is enlivened with the bacteria from the cows gut. Animals properly raised help to heal the earth and our bodies if they are fed properly and the manure is stabilized so the soil can readily make use of it.

Nice blog!

HermitJim said...

I want to thank you so much for this very helpful article. It re-enforces what I have , up to now, only feared.

Articles like this can help educate folks like me that can use all the help we can get!

Again, many thanks!

Patricia said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Sunni--I will include kombucha in the Tonic post. Bravo on your farming methods, Throwback. Thanks, everyone.
HM