By Joanie Blaxter, founder of Follow Your Gut
(Note from Kelly: This is an information-packed post full of what you need to know about nutrient dense foods, but if you're just curious about the supplement info, scroll down. Along with Joanie's recommendations, I'll tell you exactly what I take daily as well.)
When Dr. Weston Price analyzed the nutritional content in the foods of the 14 extraordinarily healthy tribes he visited around the world, he found that their diet was approximately 4 times more mineral dense than what Americans of his day ate in the 1930's.
Even more striking, these indigenous tribes ate 10 times the amount of the animal fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Another way to think of what Dr. Price found is in terms of nutritional “units”. While the average American in the 30's would consume one unit of minerals, Price's healthy tribes were consuming 4 units. Similarly, in terms of fat soluble vitamins, most notably the critical “activator X” vitamin K, Americans ate one unit compared to the 10 units of fat soluble vitamins of the indigenous diet.
Healthy Indigenous Diet: 14 — 1930's American Diet: 2
If it takes 14 units of these two categories of nutrients to be healthy, and 1930's Americans were only consuming 2, how does the diet of the average American in 2015 compare?
As a Weston Price chapter leader, I hear it all the time.
“I eat a really good diet. I don't need nutritional supplements.”
People assume they simply can read about what Dr. Price's tribes ate and transfer that information successfully to their own diet and health.
Unfortunately, in my observation, it's not so simple.
I know you would never confuse laptops, cell phones and television with life at the turn of the last century, but the sad and somewhat hidden fact is that the production and quality of our food has changed equally as dramatically over the last one hundred years! We need to adjust our eating patterns accordingly.
Minerals and Animal Fat-Soluble Vitamins Build the Foundation
Minerals are needed for the critical formation of vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and other biologically active substances too numerous to list here.
As demineralization increases, disease rates rise, as indicated in the following chart. Dr. Dunning also scoured the archives of the CDC, NIH, American Heart Association, and other agencies, tracking the incidence of disease over the same periods… (Emphasis mine. Source: How to Bring Minerals Back into the Soil and Food Supply.)
As Sally Fallon Morell has said, if minerals can be described as the bricks out of which we build our bodies, then the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, found nearly exclusively in animal fat, are the mortar holding the foundation together. If you eat a mineral-rich diet without the necessary fat-soluble vitamins to accompany it, your body will not be able to fully utilize those minerals that are so essential to growth, healing and energy release.
This is why we crave butter.
Butter helps our bodies access and put to use the minerals in the bread, green beans, lobster… It's why NEARLY EVERYTHING tastes better with butter 🙂
This is also why excluding nutrient-rich meat and/or its naturally accompanying animal fat can lead to deficiencies in:
- EPA & DHA
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
Depleted Soil Produces Depleted Plants, Animals, and Humans
Furthermore, beyond the correct proportion of the category of food that we consume (animal versus plant) is the reality that no matter what we eat, all industrially produced food, including both conventionally grown plants as well as the animals that eat those plants, has become progressively more deficient over the last century.
Why? The primary culprits appear to be the introduction of:
- Mechanized farming (circa 1925)
- Petrochemical-based fertilizers and biocides (i.e. pesticides, herbicides, etc. – about 1940), and, in particular,
- Glyphosate (the world's most commonly used herbicide and Monsanto's patented mineral binding agent and chelator – early '70's). Read my past post on this: Why Glyphosate is so Dangerous
In 1950, the content was 4.3 mg iron per apple. By 1998 (a 48-year period), that had declined to just 0.18 mg iron.
Dr. Dunning's work shows that in order to receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one apple in 1950, by 1998 you had to eat 26 apples! The reason food doesn't taste as good as it used to is also related to the deterioration of mineral content. The minerals actually form the compounds that give the fruit or vegetable its flavor. (Emphasis mine. Source: How to Bring Minerals Back into the Soil and Food Supply.)
Similarly, the Kushi Institute analysis of the nutrient content of 12 vegetables grown in the United States found declines from 1975 to 1997 (a 22-year period) of:
- Calcium 27%
- Iron 37%
- Betacarotene 21%
- Vitamin C 30%
In a landmark study published in December 2004, a team of researchers from the University of Texas looking at the U.S. Dept of Ag's own data from 1950 as compared to 1999 and found “reliable declines in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C…” and “likely declines in other nutrients… such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950…” (Emphasis mine. Source: Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?)
What is causing these nutritional declines in food?
Some experts say it's the development of varieties that give “greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability” without also paying attention to nutrient content.
Other experts point elsewhere.
In 1992, the official report of the Rio Earth Summit concluded “there is deep concern over continuing major declines in the mineral values in farm and range soils throughout the world”.
This statement was based on data showing that over the last 100 years, average mineral levels in agricultural soils had fallen worldwide – by:
- 72% in Europe
- 76% in Asia
- 85% in North America
What has caused this staggering decline?
Most of the blame lies with artificial chemical fertilizers. (Emphasis mine. Source: Institute for Optimum Nutrition, Autumn Issue, 2006.)
Want Nutrient-Dense Food? Look to the Farmer Behind the Food
Given that poor agricultural practices over the last century have stripped soils worldwide, how can we be sure we're consuming a level of nutrients comparable to what Dr. Price's supremely healthy tribes ate in the '30's?
Isn't organically grown food, besides being chemical-free, also more nutrient-dense? Can we safely assume the best-priced organic food is also more nutrient-dense than non-organic?
While there is some evidence that organically grown produce sold in supermarkets is higher in nutrition than non-organic, nevertheless other studies find nutrient levels to be about the same.
Why the difference in test results?
My guess is that what most nutrition researchers don't understand is that increased nutrition in produce does not automatically happen as a result of being grown chemical-free (organic). Plant nutrition is, instead, reflective of the health of the soil.
If you are a researcher who chooses organic fruits and vegetables for your study that are also grown using industrial, large-scale, mono-crop methods, as opposed to Regenerative Agriculture, your results may match those of conventional produce, since neither farm is actively improving the health of their soil.
In other words, nutritional differences in what we eat are reflective of the farmer behind the food. Some organic farmers pay attention to increasing the mineral and nutrient content of their soil with each successive crop.
Other farmers… not so much.
Pondering the latter kind of agriculturalist always makes me think of the giant fields just up the road from where I live.
No doubt you've seen those highly popular bags containing carrot nubbins in the produce department of the supermarket? Driving on the rural route here in the desert of southern California past row upon row of monocrop, industrially produced carrots with the sprinklers blowing a full fifteen feet into the air at midday with temperatures close to 110 degrees and in the middle of a severe drought… the fields for these “certified organic” carrots are about as far from small, diversified farming as you can get!
Although I purchase this kind of carrot in a pinch, my preference is always to buy, when possible, from the farmers I know. I may be wrong, but my common sense guess is that those factory-farmed, commercially raised carrots, although technically certified organic, are likely to be lower in nutrition than those coming from the small, highly conscious producers I know at my farmers market.
Stress Increases Our Nutrient and Probiotic Needs
Nutritional needs can shoot up from the simple stress of a cold or flu, too little sleep, too much exercise, financial worries, a relocation, divorce, or problems with a child, etc. In other words, modern day life by definition is stressful!
On top of that, when the reality is that our babies' bodies contain more than 200 chemicals starting the moment they are born, it is clear that all of us these days deal daily with a wide range of chemical assaults from our food, water and environment over which we have very little control.
What we can do to protect ourselves, however, is twofold:
- Increase our overall nutrient intake (particularly antioxidants) to better support all our detoxifying organs, and…
- Consume probiotic microflora and lacto-fermented foods.
How do gut probiotic organisms do this?
They're hungry! Those live beings in raw, lacto-fermented foods have an amazing capacity to consume all kinds of substances and convert toxins into potentially harmless and, in some cases, even beneficial, by-products simply through their digestion.
Yes. Probiotic microflora eat poison and poop out good stuff!
Now that's somebody you want to keep around!
What About “Healthy” Fats?
As Kelly has talked about many times here, we all need to add more healthy fat and its accompanying fat soluble vitamins to our diets. However, once again, it pays to be selective about how your food is raised.
Butter and/or Ghee!
Because it's a myth that the liver holds toxins. The liver is largely a filtering organ, not a storehouse. Where does the animal's body send most poisons to be stored? The fat.
Any dairy cow raised in a C.A.F.O. (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) is given genetically engineered feed full of soy, corn, neurotoxins, antibiotics, hormones and glyphosate. Butter from the milk of these cows is not only likely to be fat-soluble-nutrient-deficient, but also to contain a high percentage of the toxins from her feed.
This is why it pays to make sure your cows are entirely grassfed and pasture-raised. Here's the pastured ghee I love. The same holds true for any animal from which you render their fat. Once I began experimenting with adding healthy fats to my diet, you can imagine how my discovery of how delightfully easy it is to render tallow and lard has been a godsend for this two-left-thumbs cook! These homemade fats add a welcome variety to the flavor of my other two cooking staples: butter from 100% grassfed cows and organic coconut oil. (Don't want to render fat? Here's where to find good sources of beef tallow: large tub — the best value to split with friends, or a small tub, which is still a good deal, or get pork lard here.
Healthy Indigenous Diet: 14 — Average American Diet Today: 0?
So how much has the nutrient value of the American diet deteriorated in the last eight decades? No way to know for sure, but let's take some wild guesses.
My personal estimation about the drop from the 1930's in mineral value of our modern day food due to soil depletion is, maybe, 50%?
And the amount of vitamins A, D, E and K Americans now get from their food?
That's potentially easy math. For many Americans (hopefully not Kelly's readers so much), our intake of fat soluble nutrients is still very close to a big, fat, red nada, zed, zippo, 0.
Why do I say that? Because we've had four decades of government and “expert” misinformation telling us to replace animal fat with rancid, inflammatory vegetable oils and margarine. (For details on how that sleight of political hand happened, see my article Exorcising Pritikin's Ghost – GOOD News: Throw Out Your Cholesterol Levels Chart.)
To this day many Americans still reach for low fat or no fat products, mistakenly believing these will help with weight loss.
Remember, animal fat and fat soluble vitamins are like the mortar holding the “mineral” bricks together. With extremely low levels of these mortar-like fats in the diet, our bodily foundation, sooner or later, shifts, crumbles, and falls. Imagine being a child trying to build a body and brain out of next-to-nothing for materials!
Good Food Alone Is Not Enough, Not These Days — Here are the Daily Supplements EVERYONE Should Take…
THAT, in a nutshell, is why I take a good multi in combination with fat soluble vitamins A, D & K, as well as lacto-fermented food and/or probiotic supplement, in addition to consuming homemade healthy fats and cod liver oil every day.
1. Multi-Vitamin & Mineral
The multi helps to address the inevitable decrease in minerals and antioxidants in my food due to global soil deficiencies, as well as my increased need for nutritional support to offset whatever unintended exposure I've received to environmental toxins (like the glyphosate I inevitably eat with virtually every restaurant meal).
My personal favorite Pioneer 1+ Vitamin Mineral because, compared to most formulas, it uses a high level of very absorbable forms of vitamins and minerals.
2. Fat Soluble Vitamins A, D3 and K2
However, except for vitamin E, Pioneer 1+ Vitamin Mineral is lacking in animal-derived vitamins. So, on a daily basis, I also separately add in animal-derived vitamins:
- A (make sure it's retinol, not betacarotene)
- D3 (not D2)
- K2 (not K1)
For the correct amounts for you, check out this article: Four Important Fat Soluble Vitamins. Or, consult your nutritionist or preferred health care practitioner. Don't have a practitioner with expertise in diet? Go here to find a naturopathic physician in your area.
3. Probiotic Supplement
Probiotics also assist in detoxification from exposure to modern day, industrial poisons.
Traveling and can't bring your fermented foods with you? Here's a good probiotic supplement that can be kept at room temperature.
4. Cod Liver Oil
Never be afraid to belly up to your cod liver oil bottle, friends! Find the kinds I recommend here.
Kelly's Daily Supplement Line-Up
This is Kelly, jumping in to share what I take daily — click on the link/name of the supplement to see exactly which one I use:
- These Desiccated Liver capsules — because I surely don't get enough liver in my diet!
- Multi-vitamin/multi-mineral — I take these for the same reason Joanie stated above, to just be sure I'm getting enough vitamins and minerals. I chose this one because I trust the brand, because it had the right amounts of nutrients that my natural doc recommended, and because I could only take 2/day that weren't the size of horse pills. I DETEST swallowing pills. However, I'm going to check out the one Joanie recommended above, because she's VERY knowledgeable about supplements (she worked in this field for years), s o if I can only take two/day and they're not huge, I'll switch to that one.
- Vitamin D3 — my natural doc said I was deficient (I was tested in the spring though, I wonder what it would show now, since I was outside a lot on vacation last week) and she recommended this one because you can take it only once a week and get 50,000 IUs! This is the kind I take.
- She also said I was low in Magnesium (most of us are), and that's the one thing I haven't been good about. I should be doing more of ONE of these options: Magnesium oil, Magnesium flakes, or this magnesium drink, but I always forget!
- Vitamin K2 — I had to ask HER (my doc) why she didn't recommend taking this along with the vitamin D. She said, “Yeah, I probably should suggest them together.” It always pays to check, research, and double check anything a professional suggests, no matter how good they may be. This is the Vitamin K2 I take at Joanie's suggestion — read more about vitamin K2, whether or not it can be toxic in your system, and what else you need to know about K2 here: Healing Teeth Naturally and how NOT to take Vitamin D.
- Probiotics — I take this for the reasons Joanie stated above, plus I know I don't eat enough fermented foods. This isn't a fix for that at all (I need to get better, but just forget sometimes), but it's at least something to build the healthy bacteria in my gut, which keeps our immune system strong. Here's one of my favorite brands.
- Cod Liver Oil — here's how I get it down the hatch. Here's a more current post about which kind we take now and why.
- Iodine caps, because my iodine was a little low, so I'm just taking one of these every other day, because I've heard you could get too much of this.
- She said my adrenal health was borderline, not bad, but it could go bad, so I've been taking this adrenal supplement in the mornings and one of these vitamin C capsules in the evenings. Mostly I've been SO much better about sleeping 7-9 hours consistently. (Those of you who have been my reader friends for a long time know what a big deal this is for me me!)
Remember, don't just follow what Joanie or I say, do your own research and get help from a natural practitioner if needed!
Back to Joanie…
Your Farmer Is Your Best Health Insurance!
Rebuilding soil fertility is a labor of love. Producing more nutrient-dense food does not happen overnight, but for the sake of the improved health of our children and children's children, supporting the farmers using restorative, sustainable agricultural practices is well worth our sacrifice of a few dollars today!
How about you? How do you decide what is “enough?” Tell us in the comments what works for you.
- Also check out Kelly's post: Are Supplements Necessary for Good Health?
This was a post by my sweet friend, Joanie Blaxter, who is now a regular writer around here!
Disclaimer: Neither Joanie nor I are health professionals! Use what you read here for your own research and then consult with a natural-minded doctor or health professional you trust to find what is best and right for YOU. Read my entire disclaimer here, and also note that there may be affiliate links in this post.