Living Well with SoHum Health: You Are What You Eat

SoHum Health aims to minimize harm and maximize vitality by providing an informative column to the community. 

Key to Health for SoHum Health's column graphic

As plant-based diets are being encouraged for a variety of reasons from environmental sustainability to improved cardiovascular health, it is disturbing to learn that the fruits, vegetables, and grains we eat now are significantly lower in vital nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B2, phosphorus, and protein than those our parents and grandparents ate.

With the food-growing industry focused on profit-maximizing yields, crops get bigger faster on the same amount of nutrients in the soil, so those nutrients are spread thinner in the resulting harvest and the foods carry fewer of them. Down the line this affects carnivores as well because the feed given to meat animals is also depleted of nutrients. Estimates are that, in general, plant foods are between 5 and 40 percent lower in nutrients. More specifically for crucial micronutrients, zinc is down 27-59 percent, iron 24-27 percent, magnesium 16-24 percent, copper 20-76 percent, calcium 16-46 percent, and potassium 16-19 percent.

This issue is compounded by the effect of higher levels of carbon dioxide in the climate-changed atmosphere. Plants exposed to more carbon dioxide draw less water up from the soil, further diluting nutrition. Studies published in 2018 showed that 18 types of rice had lower concentrations of zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins with increased exposure to carbon dioxide.

Soil depletion caused by high-yield crops also compromises a crucial relationship between food plants and naturally occurring fungi in the soil that acts as a partner in nutrient uptake. Naturally occurring mycorrhizae have a symbiotic relationship with many food plants by which the plant supplies essential foods to the fungus, and the fungus helps the plant’s root systems bring in important nutrients.

The taste of food is also changed by the lower proportions of micronutrients present in produce. Bland-tasting fruits and veggies are yet another sign of soil damage and less nutritious crops.

Low-income populations who rely on grains such as rice and wheat for 30% or more of their caloric intake are at risk of increased susceptibility to disease as well as nutrient deficiencies like anemia. Hidden hunger is the term already being applied to those affected by nutrient deficiencies even though adequate calories are consumed. Epidemic obesity is often blamed on this empty-calorie effect. This is no longer just a third-world problem.

The effects of nutrient deficiency are exaggerated in populations where food insecurity is already the norm, with estimates that up to 3 billion people face a severe public health crisis.

As we in the West remain less affected so far by some of these disturbing global trends, it is also true that rising food prices are forcing many of us to choose less nutritious calories to fill our stomachs. Climate change isn’t going away, and agricultural practices are still rewarding growers by weight of crops produced rather than nutritional quality.

The World Food Programme is one of several organizations dedicated to reforming agriculture worldwide through soil-regenerative practices and conventional (often, but not always non-GMO) breeding to put specific crucial nutrients back into crops. In areas where millet crops have become severely depleted of iron, an essential micronutrient, a new iron-rich millet has been introduced and has already reduced anemia levels in populations eating it. Similar programs exist for zinc, protein, and B vitamins in other crops.

Additionally, inoculation of mycorrhizal fungus into soils is being trialed in the US and other countries to restore the beneficial relationship that makes plants more efficient at bringing nutrients on board as they grow.

Seed saving, cover crops, and crop rotation practices as old as farming itself have also been shown to produce more nutrient-rich crops. Movements all over the world, many inspired by Indian food activist Vandana Shiva, are rejecting Big Ag and encouraging a return to ancient, sustainable practices.

While some of these reform measures appear costly on the surface, far more costly is an unhealthy world population suffering from preventable disease. We in rural settings most likely already know the difference in taste and vitality of homegrown food. As awareness of inferior nutrition spreads, it is hoped that global agricultural practices take a hint from home gardeners and other sustainable movements to both reduce big picture costs and improve human health. After all, we are all in this together.

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Permanently on Monitoring
Guest
Permanently on Monitoring
22 days ago

Elements of the Native American Diet, as it exists today, like Fry-bread, Potatoes, White Bread and Vodka, contribute to the high incidence of Overweight and Diabetes found in that population…

As far as SoHum is concerned, the cost of food locally causes the basis for poor diet-related health issues, and the high incidence of Obesity, Diabetes, and CHD… Also, the availability of drugs in the community leads to Mental Health Disorders across the spectrum…

Always remember, SHCHD charges $500 for a Private-Pay Office Visit, and the highest-cost lab and XRAY in Northern California, so shop around before you get buried under healthcare costs you were not prepared for…

You can now access healthcare online, on Amazon, for one, and they will serve up meds and referrals on demand…

No need to bother with local small-operation healthcare where the resources are mostly wasted on bloated salary for the CEO and his Daughter, the COO who is a physical wreck himself, and the Lab Staff, who make as much as the Doctors, these days…

HalfACenturianD
Member
HalfACenturian
22 days ago

More than a result of substance abuse, mental health issues lead to substance missuse which has its own side effects.

HalfACenturianD
Member
HalfACenturian
22 days ago

Given vitamins such as the b vitamins and D are needed for mental health I am still shocked those are not tested before medications prescribed.
Crushingly sad is that children have for at least a generation now have been raised on poor nutrition and over medication and so there are adults who have not experienced healthier eating. Worse yet it has become a class issue after many after decades of Burger King making burgers look like sexy mouth patty bonus for blue collar workers and Mac Donald’s ads depicting overworked parents making up for lack of time by giving their kids happy meals. If you care about what you eat many in Humboldt county look at you like you’re an elitist Debbie downer/over worrier …. Many unhealthy elderly treat those trying hard to eat healthy like we’re not taking one for the team, traders in some sort of subconsciously martyred community of unhealthy.

melanopsin
Member
22 days ago

Thank you Ann for your informative article!

Plenty of reasons there to organically grow and share as much of your own food, to eat locally produced organic foods, and to support your local organic farmers and farmer’s markets! Food produced on healthy soil using organic methods is more nutrient-rich. Because it is more nutrient-rich, you need less of it! There’s your cost-benefit.

I will mention the dioxin contamination of all dairy products produced east of the Rockies due to coal burning. Ben & Jerry told us long ago… Products produced downwind from nuclear facilities are also contaminated.

tahca
Guest
tahca
22 days ago

G R E A T article, Ann! Thank you!

Ed Voice
Guest
Ed Voice
21 days ago

Why is the Southern Humboldt Community Park Board planning to construct a football/ sports field, pickle ball court, larger 50 car parking lot and bicycle pump track, on listed NRCS prime ag land with prime ag soils, instead of growing food for their community?

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1T4ISzp13rnpC64dhNtG3_47YC3sEVYRb/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aLY-TgoHTfNrfzs155WBXSl-bbthU_KZ/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XCWrF3fmMpHkC12uhF9npsXxKa5xfCtc/view?usp=sharing

melanopsin
Member
19 days ago

Ultra-processed foods need tobacco-style warnings, says scientistUPFs should also be heavily taxed due to impact on health and mortality, says scientist who coined term

https://www.theguardian.com/global/article/2024/jun/27/ultra-processed-foods-need-tobacco-style-warnings-says-scientist

“Public health campaigns are needed like those against tobacco to curb the dangers of UPFs,” he told the Guardian in an email. “Such campaigns would include the health dangers of consumption of UPFs.

“Advertisements for UPFs should also be banned or heavily restricted, and front-of-pack warnings should be introduced similar to those used for cigarette packs.”

He will tell delegates: “Sales of UPFs in schools and health facilities should be banned, and there should be heavy taxation of UPFs, with the revenue generated used to subsidise fresh foods.”

melanopsin
Member
17 days ago

About BPA — Bisphenol A
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A

Drinking from plastic bottles can raise type 2 diabetes risk, study warns
Findings are first to provide evidence that chemical’s administration increases type 2 diabetes risk, researchers say
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/plastic-bottles-microplastics-diabetes-risk-b2568246.html

A breakthrough new study has found direct evidence linking a key chemical ingredient of plastic bottles to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in the journalDiabetes, found that the chemical BPA used to make food and drink packages, including plastic water bottles, can reduce sensitivity to the hormone insulin which regulates the body’s sugar metabolism.

Last edited 17 days ago
melanopsin
Member
12 days ago

Coffee, eggs and white rice linked to higher levels of PFAS in human body

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/article/2024/jul/04/pfas-toxic-forever-chemicals-food