What You Don’t Eat May Kill You!
Food is a very big part of our culture. We eat food many times for reasons other than health and nourishment. We have many comfort foods that we consume during special occasions and sometimes for just random fun, like ice cream and cake. Sugar and refined flours, oils high in omega 6s like vegetable and soybean oils, and trans fats overwhelm the American diet and are contributing to many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, ADD/ADHD and autistic spectrum disorders.
We are warned constantly that eating these foods that are bad for us will cause health problems, and yet many people choose to eat them anyway. But eating “junk” food causes biochemical imbalances in the body that will eventually change our physiological function and lead to disease.
It is really all about the Chemistry! (Now don’t freak out and have flashbacks to high school yet). Chemistry reactions work until one of the reagents causing the reaction to happen runs out. This is called the limiting reagent. As long as we continue to feed our body so the body chemistry has all the little bits and pieces needed to make the reactions happen, our body can stay alive and function.
We have seen many examples of this throughout history and much of our understanding of vitamins and nutrition comes from finding the deficiencies that cause illness and disease. Conditions like scurvy were found in sailors who were not consuming any fresh fruits or vegetables because of the difficulty in preserving them while on long sea voyages before refrigeration. Scurvy is a connective tissue disease that is caused by a deficiency in vitamin C. Once it was identified that vitamin C was responsible for the scurvy, sailors were fed limes, and they no longer lost their teeth, but they were called Limeys from then on.
Many other diseases have been identified that relate to nutritional deficiencies. For example Beriberi is a thiamin (B1) deficiency causing swelling and reddening of the tongue. We know that deficiencies in vitamin D levels will cause problems with bones and immune system weakness.
photo courtesy Strike Farms Instagram
Iron deficiency is called anemia and will cause problems with fatigue due to lack of oxygen needed to make energy. The body is like a giant test tube with thousands of chemical reactions happening every second to allow us to function properly. When we loose that proper function, we become sick.
Keeping our chemistry functioning is a bigger challenge these days than we realize. Our food is refined in factories and packaging plants before it reaches our tables, and many of the nutrients in the food are lost during this process. Food is also grown in nutrient depleted soils due to overfarming and poor crop rotation. Another problem with our food sources is the animals we rely on for food are also being fed food that has been processed and depleted. Remember you’re not just what you eat, but you’re what your food eats as well.
Nutritional deficiencies are a problem because often we don’t know what we don’t know. Nutritional deficiencies arise over periods of time of not consuming foods that are well balanced in vitamins and minerals. When you eat refined flour, all the vitamins that are in the bran of the wheat have been removed to make processing easier. Then, after the processing, certain vitamins are put back in and the product is called “enriched.” This is not because processors are making the product better, but because they are trying to put back (very unsuccessfully) what was taken out.
Unfortunately, you can never re-engineer what nature has already designed and do a better job. Time and time again this has been tried and it has failed miserably. It has failed miserably for a very specific reason. We don’t know what we don’t know. But, we do know there are many small, microscopic nutrients and molecules that work synergistically together to create chemical responses that allow physiology to work appropriately. Nature already has it figured out, but our textbooks don’t. We need to make sure we are staying ahead of our knowledge as our scientific understanding unfolds and gives us more information to keep our understanding of health growing and expanding.
To keep us ahead of the game, however, we need to make sure we are consuming all the unknown factors for our physiology. It is a little bit of a shot in the dark, but there is a really easy formula to hedge our bets. If you are not eating the following foods on a regular basis, then you are at risk of becoming ill from what you don’t know. Locally grown vegetables from local soils are a very important place to start for optimal nutrition. The soils of local farmers often have more mineral and nutrient dense soils because of the care and crop rotation needed to farm productive crops. Eat animals that are raised locally that are eating foods coming from locally grown sources on grounds that are nutrient and mineral dense. Consuming wild game that consumes a natural diet is usually dense in nutritional quality. If you can’t find local food, eat organic foods that are grown and produced by farmers that pay attention to soil quality and the nutrient dense quality of their crops.
This principle and philosophy has been studied by many different institutions, and it has been shown that measurable quantities of nutrients in organic vs. non-organic foods is as great as 10:1. Making a conscious effort to consume local, nutrient dense foods will definitely give your body all the known and hopefully all of the unknown factors needed to maintain optimal health. If your food comes pre-packaged, refined, shaped differently than nature made it, and in unnatural colors, think twice before consuming it; if you do consume it, make sure you balance your diet by eating more non-processed foods that will nourish you and keep your body healthy, natural, and optimal.