This is the first blog in a whole series on the various vitamins and minerals that are vital for good health and vitality. The video clip is by the vice president of the Price Pottenger foundation, David Getoff, summarising why organic food is more nutritious than non-organic. The reasons can be boiled down to modern fertilisers put on crops containing only the 3 minerals nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus (NPK). These are three important minerals are needed to make the plant look good – but a plant needs many more minerals than these 3 for full health – and we need even more minerals and vitamins than the plants do.
In the olden days, the fertilizer put on crops was completely natural – rotted down vegetable peelings, weeds, poo etc. This meant that the nutrients went round in a cycle with the addition of other natural fertilisers such as ash from a fire and crop rotation.1 With the development of modern fertilisers, which really took off after the two world wars2 the plants took up the many nutrients they needed from the soil in the first few crops, leaving the soil progressively depleted of all nutrients except NPK.
As a result, our nutritional status is slowly dropping. For example, I run a very simple zinc taste test and I have never had any one come any where near passing it. I also run a stomach acid test, and again, I have never met anyone with adequate levels of stomach acid in their stomach. Stomach acid production depends upon the raw ingredients being present in the diet. Sleep quality is overall very poor – good sleep means going to sleep easily at night, sleeping the night through and waking without needing an alarm, fully refreshed. Disturbed sleep is a symptom of low nutritional status. Other easily ignored symptoms of lack of various vitamins and minerals include catching colds, flaky nails, skin problems, dry eyes, lack of sex drive. The list is very long and ultimately makes for tedious reading. The point is that the body does talk to us and tell us all is not right, but the early signs are easily ignored or damped down with a course of steroids, sleeping pills, anti-acids and so on. When we feel tired all the time it gets blamed on age or lifestyle. Always the finger is pointed at everything other than low zinc levels, for example.
There are two other reasons for us lacking essential vitamins and minerals for health. One is the food chain and how long it takes to get a vegetable or fruit from plant to plate so to speak. The longer a vegetable or fruit is stored for, the less nutrition it carries. Those who grow their own produce definitely score better here. And, as the video says, if the food is grown organically there is a much greater chance of it having more vitamins and minerals. Another reason for low vitamin and mineral levels is the animals we eat not being given their natural foods to eat, but being given grains to fatten them up more quickly. 3 And there is also a growing movement to keep cows indoors permanently, which will reduce their exposure to vitamin D from sunlight. For a food to be maximally healthy for us, the food needs to have been produced in as natural a way as possible.
The upshot of all this is most people are deficient in many vitamins and minerals and would do well to take high quality supplementation to ensure a long, happy and healthy life. Either that or move to somewhere like The Dominican Republic, where they have never been wealthy enough to buy synthetic fertilisers or pesticides. They still only know the organic way of raising their food, so if we lived there, we wouldn’t need to take supplements.
So the following series of weekly blogs will look at what the various vitamins and minerals do in the body and will cover some of the symptoms of shortages. But before I launch into that, the next blog will talk briefly about why high quality supplements are worth the money and the sort of things to look out for when buying supplements.
- We cannot uptake all the nutrients in our food, so excrete some, as do the animals [↩]
- In the book The Omnivores Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, he says the year was 1947 and the reason was an excess of ammonium nitrate, the principal ingredient in making explosives. It is also an excellent source of nitrogen for plants. It is a frightening recurring theme – when we have a surplus of something and don’t know what to do with it, we feed it to ourselves. OK, this is indirect feeding, but nevertheless one of the many reasons we are in the planetary mess we are in is due to excessive nitrogen entering the waterways. [↩]
- I am not going to enter the battle about vegetarian animals, eg cows, being fed bits of dead animal in their food here. Suffice it to say, cows eat grass and not dead chickens. [↩]