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"Let Food Be Thine Medicine"

Most people reading this have heard the above quote before. A lot of people seem to really like the idea of letting their food be their medicine.

And I agree--it IS a nice idea. If only we could just eat great food and it would keep us healthy. Or even cure us of whatever ails us. But most of the time this just doesn't work. Typically even people who are very picky about what they eat still get sick. So it just doesn't follow that food is working as medicine.

Furthermore, if it was that simple, why would anyone have ever gotten sick in the first place? Its not like sickness just started when food became industrialized or overly processed. People have been getting sick for a long long time. Even in the days before chemical agriculture.

So what has to happen for us to legitimately have a conversation about food being medicine? What has to be true about the food? What has to be true about us?

Well the first thing to know is that not all food is created equal. Most people have a vague awareness that some food is less healthy then other foods. We all know junk food isn't good. And plenty of people have gone further then just eliminating junk food from their diet. Many people have cleaned out their diets and only eat clean food. Perhaps they even add in what are called "super foods".

Moving from "unhealthy" food groups (or even toxic food groups) to "healthiER" food groups is a pretty common dieting tactic. And it is a perfectly good tactic to take. I am all for people eating more vegetables and animal fats.

But what most people don't realize is just how wide the nutritional variance there can be WITHIN food groups.

For instance, studies have found that a beet can be up to 9 times as nutritious as another beet!

You might want to read that again.

A beet can have a HUGE variance in its nutritional profile!

That is something to know. Because it means a LOT of foods could be as good or better then the so-called "super" foods.

It also means you might not need to switch to a new food group so much as switch to better versions of the same food!

Imagine, you eat all the normal things you like, except the individual ingredients are all multiple times more nutritious! Your nutritional intake skyrockets without needing to move your eating habits to something strange and obscure!

The questions then becomes, what makes the difference and how can you be sure you are getting food that is so superior? Is there even a way? Can we do anything about it?

The answer to those questions are complicated. But simply put, we CAN know the difference, and there is quite a lot we can do to ensure our food has significantly elevated levels of nutrition.

And it all comes down to the soil.

Because all plant growth comes from the soil and plants can only get what they need to build themselves from the soil their roots are in. Everything that plant is made of is absorbed from the soil and the plant has to work hard to both absorb the necessary elements and to transform and combine them into the parts it needs to build its cells and structures.

And what that plant can get from the soil makes all the difference.

If for instance the plant is grown in poor rocky dead soil, it will hardly be able to access what it needs and what it will be able to access will be mostly bare minerals that it then has to process into the necessary parts it needs to build itself. Just mining the soil and building its parts will require all the solar energy it can manage to collect (remember plants run on solar energy through photosynthesis).

That is how a lot of plants are grown. Just growing is asking a lot of them in this case--they can only barely get what they need.

Another example would be a plant grown in soil that is teaming with biological life and is richly mineralized with a wide range of all the minerals both macro and micro in all the correct ratios and readily available in easily accessible forms for the plant roots to absorb. Furthermore, the soil is rich with microscopic living organisms that are constantly living, feeding, reproducing, dying, and decomposing within the soil. THESE organisms are already mining the soil minerals, consuming them, combining them, and transforming them into complex compounds which then become readily available to the plant roots.

In this case, the plant hardly has to mine the soil for its own basic minerals but can rather absorb pre-made parts! Instead of absorbing the basic building blocks of life, it can absorb already manufactured compounds that are shed by the soil organisms. This gives the plant a tremendous head start which allows it to further build and combine what it is absorbing into even more complex compounds and further refine and fine tune its own physiological systems! The plant isn't working on just surviving and reproducing, but can now THIRVE and move on to high functions like warding off pests and developing complex aromatics and flavonoids and increasing its own energy gathering systems (photosynthesis).

These two options are a continuum. Meaning there are plenty of stages in between where things are better and worse.

But the second option is a rough picture of why food can differ so significantly in its nutritional profile. Health and nutrition isn't just about the presence of bare minerals (though that is important). Its more about what those minerals are combined into. Many compounds can't be created if something critical is missing.

So when a plant can "Feed" on higher order compounds, it can in turn use its energy to create even HIGHER order compounds. Which means when you eat in your turn you are also absorbing higher order compounds which your body can quickly and easily utilize to build and repair its own highly complex tissues and structures etc.

When a plant is required to use all its energy scrounging for bare building blocks out of the dusty earth, it doesn't have much energy left to build much beyond basic sugars and fiber (relatively speaking). which means you in turn are only feeding on basic sugars and fiber. Your body then has a lot of work to do to upgrade and combine those basic building blocks into useful compounds that support your repair your body. You'll hardly be able to. Which means your health will lag lower then it might.

This is a rough explanation of why one type of food can vary so dramatically in nutrition. And it explains why some food might actually allow your body to thrive and build itself up while other versions of the same food might barely give you what you need.

And best of all, there is one extremely obvious way in which you can tell for yourself if you are getting the deeply nourishing food that is chalk full of healthy and complex compounds or food that is vapid and lacking in useful compounds.

I'll write more about that next time!

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