The prevention of most human diseases exists in the earth’s soil. A bold and provocative statement to make indeed! Most agree that in order to maintain a long healthy life, there are four to five essential life style choices required: nutritious food, exercise, stress management, sleep and social connections. This writing will address the food choice. Nutritious food, with the emphasis, on nutritious is the only way to fight diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. And how does food get its nutrients to wage this war on diseases and promote a healthy life…from the soil. Ah, my work here is done! Actually, it is just beginning.
Previous Growing Good Food blogs outlined the importance of living soil, land stewardship, and the sustainable farming techniques used to enhance food production. All that background information has lead us to this tipping point in our quest for good food. It is really quite simple, whole foods (not the store) consumed closest to its ripest and natural state provides the most nutrients.
It makes sense that a carrot pulled from the ground and eaten is more nutritious than one shipped from halfway around the world. In addition, vegetables rich in color are the most nutritious, think beets, greens, pumpkins, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Same holds true for fruits: blackberries, blueberries, purple grapes, strawberries, cherries, and kumquats. Legumes encompass beans, lentils, peas and peanuts. Even dark whole grains such a quinoa, buckwheat, and brown rice pack a nutrient punch. The choice is clear, food that is white is lite on nutrients, but dark hits the mark. (I like that phrase)
Before we explore the soil-nutrient partnership let’s review some basic vitamins and minerals. As you know from reading labels, calcium, folate, iron, potassium, Vitamins C & K all have recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) as set by the Institute of Medicine. Also the USDA has a database to show nutrient values of all types of food. Marketing would make you believe you can only get calcium from animals, not true Watson. Calcium is present in abundance in a number of plants with leafy greens.
Here is a short list:
- Chinese cabbage 1 cup – 158mg
- Soybeans 1 cup – 261mg
- Black-eyed bean 1 cup – 211mg
- Onions 1 cup – 57mg
- Celery 1 cup – 63mg
- Carrots 1 cup – 42mg
- Peas 1 cup – 45mg
- Squash summer 1 cup – 38mg
Sounds like a yummy stir-fry to me. The RDA for Calcium is 1,200 mg. Although we are not going to consume 8 cups of veggies, 2 cups will give you 200mg of calcium, not mention fiber, iron, folate…you get the picture. That is a better choice than the fat and calories in dairy products. I hear you, but cheese habit is hard to break.
Are you ready to get down and dirty, and explore the marvels of nutrient-rich soil?
Well, without going all Texas A&M (whoop) Agrilife on you, here are the soil basics. Minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium exist naturally in the dirt. The trick is getting the plant to absorb them so your body can use them to promote good health. There are negative and positive charges at play in the soil, but it is easier to think of our growing soil as needing to be in balance.
Too much of any mineral, chemical, or even water will deter from optimal plant intake. Soil fertility is absolutely necessary to growing nutritious food. Bigger is not better in this instance, you want nutritious, not supersized food. Unfortunately, current farming techniques have eroded the land and stripped it of much of the nutrients. This is why one must consume 4 apples today in order to get the same nutritional value of 1 apple in our grandparents’ time. Really! Many folks are overfeed, but undernourished, hence our obesity problem.
What is a woman to do? You can grow your own food, start small, using pots, square foot boxes, or co-op with a friend. You can get your food from farmer’s markets, (North Central Texas Farmer Market-Saturday morning at the Weatherford Circle in Ft Worth). Check the Google for local listings. You can order organic food to be delivered to your home. Try to find food in season, grown close to you, and harvested when ripe. Trust me, tomatoes strip mined from South America well before they were ripe, lack nutrients and don’t really taste that good.
Great health is achieved by choice not chance; choose nutritious food today and every day.
40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World by Howard G Buffett