Home Grown Nutrition
From Chapter 28 of "Healthy Garden Healthy You" by Milo Shammas
Gardening has grown more popular for two reasons: money and health. It makes good financial sense to grow your own food, and a growing number of unbiased scientific studies confirm the superior nutritional value of foods grown organically. Organically grown foods, especially those grown at home, have the greatest nutritional value and positive health benefits when eaten as part of a regular diet.
Homegrown organic crops contain a significantly higher amount of phytonutrients compared to conventionally grown foods. Organic produce offers more antioxidants (vitamin C, polyphenols and flavonoids), micronutrients and minerals. Also, when you grow and eat organic food, you avoid or stop exposing yourself to the wide array of pesticides, heavy metals, nitrates and other contaminants in conventional crops. Avoiding contamination and bioaccumulation takes you a giant step closer to good health.
For a long time, I have seen a definite relationship between the methods of chemical fertilization and plant treatment and the poor nutritional quality of conventional crops. Organic produce contains higher nutritional value, or nutrient density, than conventional produce. Furthermore, with homegrown produce, gardeners can exercise complete control to restrict or eliminate contaminants like chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Therefore, the organic grower minimizes or eliminates the health risks and diseases associated with consuming mono-cultured food crops that are conventionally grown.
Scientists have known the link between human health and soil health for many years. However, many of the giant agriculture corporations that manufacture chemicals also fund or endow the majority of university experiments and testing. This financial relationship between large-scale food producers and academic research presents bias barriers to achieving objective research results. Companies that support scientific inquiry and research have a financial stake in cheaper, less healthy forms of food production. Scientific trials pointing to or supporting the positive benefits of organic foods, or the detrimental effects of conventional growing and processing methods, pose a financial threat to established agribusiness interests. If you owned or invested in a huge chemical company that makes fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified products, you would not want to conduct testing to prove that what you sell is inferior and poses health risks. I am an optimist not a cynic, but it is simple human nature in a capitalist economic structure that companies will suppress or avoid revealing evidence that undermines their profits.
If agriculture and food research were done with pure objectivity and an attitude of “Let the chips fall where they may,” we would have widespread testing and publicity to show which chemicals are unsafe and should never come near our food and water. Chemical treatments would have to be retired. Some conventionally grown crops would have to be redirected for sale (at significantly reduced prices) to poorer developing nations that have weaker regulations.
The public hears little about the disparity in nutritional quality of produce and foods grown and processed by different methods. To be fair, some conventional foods do contain respectable nutritional quality. Some food crops are raised on newer farms where the land has not been overworked for many years. Lands under recently cleared forest and jungle are still raw, pristine and nutrient rich. However, most soils farmed in the U.S. have been depleted by destructive mismanagement methods over many generations. Such land is much less likely to yield high quality produce.
The Taste Test and Nutrition
Have you ever heard a gardener say, “Nothing can beat the great taste of my homegrown tomatoes”? You may also hear complaints (or experience yourself) that store bought tomatoes have little flavor and are full of water. Grocery store produce often does not taste anything like the wonderful fruits and vegetables many families ate from the farms where past generations lived and grew their food.
Why are grocery tomatoes so inferior to home grown? Most tomatoes are picked green, transported and refrigerated unripe to help them stay looking perfect. They are also artificially ripened by exposing them to ethylene gas at the produce distributor. The result is the mealy, tasteless tomatoes you see in the average grocery produce section.
After growing their own, some gardeners decide they cannot go back to store bought tomatoes. They do not always know why the homegrown produce tastes so much better. Perhaps they just thought it was sweeter for some reason. Maybe they noticed less water in their plants or credited that dark compost they had been adding for years. Home gardeners usually cannot identify a purely scientific reason as to why their produce tastes better than what they generally find in the supermarket. Organic gardeners have known what they grow tastes better but they could not prove their produce was better for them. Logical deduction suggests if we feed the soil with clean and pure organic nutrients, we can produce healthier plants. However, not much science was applied to that reasoning.
The science below is simple to understand. Low-quality produce is easy to identify. It has low amounts of total dissolved sugars and low nutrient content. It also does not taste as good or sweet. Dissolved sugars are converted to needed energy when we eat them. Low nutrients and low dissolved sugars equal less available energy or fuel for our bodies. Conversely, plants with high nutrient content will have a high sucrose content, or brix level. (Brix is a measure of the dissolved sugar-to-water mass ratio. This is what we associate with a juicy quality.)
Plants that yield inferior produce are weaker. They transmit an electromagnetic frequency in the same range as destructive insects. These plants are in a way inviting consumption by pests that occupy a lower level on the food chain. The human intervention of chemical pest control prevents a weak and inferior plant from naturally being consumed by pests. Healthy produce, on the other hand, contains a high level of dissolved sugars and thick protective cell walls. These plants do not send signals that cry out, “I am sick” to insects that attack them. Healthy plants emit electromagnetic frequencies that insects cannot identify. This is a natural deterrent for insects to consume otherwise healthy plants. The high dissolved sugar content in healthy plants will convert to alcohol in an insect’s digestive system and cause the insects that eat these plants to suffer from diarrhea and dehydration. Insects do not have a liver as we do and cannot digest these sugars, so consuming healthy plants and their sugar content actually kills them. In this respect, healthy plants contain a natural pesticide, namely sugar. Conversely, natural sugar is just what we need for energy, health and long life.
If a fruit or a vegetable tastes sweet, it probably contains some nutrient density. Even when they contain nutrient density, plants treated with the toxins in fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides often carry chemical residues harmful to human health. Home grown or organic produce is still the healthiest choice.
Many of the nutritional supplements on the cutting edge of technology get their nutrients from food-based ingredients and adding catalysts such as digestive enzymes and probiotics. These ingredients make nutritional supplements bioavailable. (Nutrients are useless to our bodies unless we can absorb them.)
Whole foods provide us with bioavailable nutrients. Because these foods have not been altered, they have the highest potential to readily breakdown in our body for maximum use and value. This is basic biochemistry. The simpler the molecule, the easier it is for us to absorb it. We should try to derive all nutrition from food, because our body was designed to identify those compounds in their unprocessed form. Nature never isolates vitamins or minerals the way so many supplements are isolated in containers and stacked on a store shelf. Vitamins and minerals in nature are available in complex combinations found in the wide variety of food we eat. Nutritionists know our body does not absorb essential nutrients most effectively when taken as isolated USP vitamins or minerals. (USP stands for U.S. Pharmacopeia, a non–governmental, official public standards–setting authority for prescription and over–the–counter medicines. USP also sets widely recognized standards for quality, purity, strength and consistency in food ingredients and dietary supplements.)
Absorption rates are less than 5 percent in some cases. For example, your system may use less than 50 milligrams of that 1000-milligram pill you took. The rest is eliminated. If you want to supplement your organic healthy garden foods, make sure you use food-based ingredients and not synthetic/USP nutrients.
Nothing mentioned above considers simple processed sugars. Avoid foods with high-fructose sugars as much as possible, because they are completely bioavailable. This may pose a major health risk. Additionally, the calories in high fructose sugars have no nutritional significance for us; they are “empty.” Read the label on packaged foods you buy. Many contain high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener substitute for white sugar.
The term bioavailability refers to the relationship between how much of a nutrient you consume to how much you absorb for use in your body. Bioavailability can vary drastically from person to person based on the beneficial probiotics in the digestive tract and the amount of food rich in digestive enzymes a person eats. Other factors affect bioavailability. How certain foods are cooked and how fast a person chews and swallows affect nutrient absorption. Alcohol consumption, metabolic rate, gastrointestinal disorders or disease, age and state of general health all influence bioavailability.
With our desire to look young and healthy, many of us have gone to a low-calorie diet focused on nutrient density and the bioavailability of the nutrients in the foods we eat. The idea is to consume less food but make sure we are absorbing the maximum amount of nutrition from fewer calories. This makes perfect sense and is a logical approach. However, many people still eat junk food and consume cheap supplements in hope that they fulfill the nutritional requirements for a full and energetic life. I understand this reasoning, but healthy food from an organic diet with bioavailable nutrients is still the best and safest way to better health. Simply eating fewer calories and consuming supplements will keep you energized and moving. However, it does not add any long-term health benefits. Also, using supplements requires a complete understanding of how nutrients react in our system for full absorption or bioavailability. This requires study with tests and trials for each individual’s unique biochemistry.
Simply said, grow as much as you can organically in your backyard in nutrient rich soils. People wanting weight control will be pleased to know that with organic produce you can eat less, because the nutrient density is higher. If you want to take supplements, make sure they are food-based. Complement supplements with synergistic, broad-spectrum catalysts such as probiotics and a wide variety of digestive enzymes. These will help your body extract the nutrients.
Grow it. Eat it.
Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator