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Food Quality
by LuAnn Rolling, District Conservationist
You’ve all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat”, but in truth you are what your food ate!  Basically our health is a reflection of the nutrients available to the plants and animals in the food chain, starting with healthy soil. Food quality is critically dependent on clean and healthy air, water, and soil; and healthy soil microbes.

Dr. Christin Jones, a soil ecologist, reports research that looked at 27 kinds of vegetables and found that since 1940 the amount of copper present in food has declined by 76 percent, calcium has declined by 46 percent, iron by 27 percent, magnesium by 24 percent and potassium by 16 percent. Dr. Jones and others believe that depleted soil is the reason for this decline.  Dr. Jones points out that the soil isn’t deficient in these minerals, but they are lacking the microbes necessary to help plants access those minerals.

Dr. Chris Nichols has been studying research from the University of Massachusetts, John Hopkins and the University of California at Davis  that is aimed at discovering the links between soil health and nutritive content in Food. She says the preliminary research suggests that improved soil health could point toward solutions to the obesity crisis.

Nichols says the diluted nutrient content in our food drives our bodies to have to consume more. She adds that our gut microbiome signals our brain that it’s starving and tells us to eat more food.

Dr. David Thomas did an analysis of historical changes in food composition published by the medical Research Council. He says that soil dysfunction impacts human and animal health. He reports that over the last 70 years the level of every nutrient in almost every kind of food has fallen between 10 and 100%. He says that an individual today would need to consume twice as much meat, three times as much fruit and four to five times as many vegetables to obtain the same amount of minerals and trace elements as available in those same foods in 1940. He attributes the mineral depletion in meat and dairy to the fact that animals are consuming plants and/or grains that are themselves minerally depleted.

Consumers are more likely to spend with their health in mind. Some consumers are using a “Bionutrient Meter” when buying vegetables. This meter reads the spectrum of light that bounces back to a sensor and gives the consumer a relevant reading of how nutritious that vegetable is. It allows a consumer to take out the tool, flash it at a carrot or apple or piece of meat and can tell how nutritious that it is in real time.

What can we do?  We can reverse the trend and implement healthy soil practices on our farms.  We can restore nutrient density to what we raise, but it involves changing our farming practices.  The basics to farming regeneratively, include no-till, cover crops, not raising the same one or two crops over and over, introducing livestock and therefore utilizing manure rather than synthetic fertilizers. We can be very careful with crop inputs and only apply insecticides and fungicides if careful scouting proves that it is essential and then only on those areas requiring treatment.

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