one of the problems withe the nutritionist approach to eating is that it puts forward the following solution to the problems of our current over-processed diet:

if you are eating too many highly processed nutritionally bankrupt foods, the best way to remedy that is with supplements! whatever we took out of the food can be given back to you in the form of a pill or a powder or a pouch. sometimes, they will even do you the favor of “fortifying” your food for you with some of the nutrients they stripped away in the first place, while they were refining your food into something that was more marketable/travelable/packable/shelf-stable/sturdy/extrudable/new and different. so, rather than ask why they need to take 50 million supplements and look for boxes that make ever-increasing nutrition claims, “look, mom- oreos that are good for me they have fiber added in! lucky charms that are heart-healthy! new and improved pepsi with real pure sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup- that has to be better for me!” – they just keep chasing the dream of eating more and more processed junk that will give them this elusive goal of better packaged health.

but it’s the processing that took away the health benefits in the first place. duh.

ok. that’s not entirely fair, for at least two reasons.

the first is that the processing did not intend to strip the healthfulness out of food; often it was an unintended consequence. for example, when flour is being made, leaving in the germ on the wheat will make it go rancid faster. that’s why the closer your flour is to fresh ground, the faster your loaf will mold; the closer it is to alive. and the further away it is from that (bleached, ground, pounded, whirled, irradiated, etc etc) the longer its shelf-life will be. so fresh- ground flour in your home-kitchen will bake bread that can sit on your counter for maybe a day (or two?), and wonder bread can sit on your counter for infinity (or close to it?). so the fresher and less processed the ingredients are that you start with, the less you will have to add in to make it full of good nutrition. and the more processed a food item is, as a general rule, the more you will have to add back in (or add in at all) for it to have any health benefits to you.

and the problem is that, although we understand how to deconstruct a food, we really have no idea how to put it nutritionally back together. just like we still have no working understanding of why or how an aspirin works (we just know it does- seriously- check if you don’t believe me. this is the same for tons of other medicines we take also. and we call this “science”. but i digress…), we can break down corn into components, but when we then try to reassemble, we create a shambles. why is this so? a big part is that we just don’t understand the complex interplay of so many factors at work. we know what we see. and we try to replicate that- often with poor success (just look at infant formula if you want a great example of trying to imitate nature and failing miserably. how long has industry tried to mimic mother’s milk? they just cannot get it right, no matter how many formulas they patent. ever wonder why???). so if you look at the fact that corn today is finding its way into the average person’s diet in one form or another to the tune of about 550 calories (nope, i’m not making that up!), it’s no wonder we don’t have so much room for other more nutritious foods on our plates… (i guess you could call this reason number 1-1/2. that eating too much of this will naturally leave us less able to eat what we should really be eating in the first place…)

reason number two is that, over the last several decades our food has been becoming more and more nutritionally depleted. USDA researchers have found that breeding to increase wheat yields has decreased the iron by 28% and the zinc and selenium by about 1/3.  today’s holstein cows, give us about three times as much milk as other types of cows that small dairy farmers used to keep, but they have considerably less butterfat and other nutrients. sine 1980, american farmers produce about 600 more calories per person, per day (300 of which we consume, the rest of which we feed to animals or waste, i guess…) . but about 1/4 of the ones we eat are from added sugars (most of them from high fructose corn syrup). another 1/4 is from added fats, almost half is from refined grains, and then a tiny tiny bit is from fruits and vegetables (this is from the USDA, so it’s not like they would want to slant the data against themselves…).

but back to some USDA statistics (courtesy of michael pollan, and i hope i am not boring you, but i am simply fascinated and i wanted to pass this on to you…): they analyzed 43 crops since the 1950s and found  declines of 20% in vitamin C, 15% in iron, 38% in riboflavin, and 16% in calcium. in england the stats are similarly bleak.

we are able to eat about 80,000 species. right now, we are eating just a teeny tiny fraction of those. this means that although we can and probably should be getting a varied diet full of a huge variety of micro and macro-nutrients, we are only getting a small sliver. and if our diet relies on processed foods, then we will be even more nutritionally depleted. for the first time in history we are overfed but undernourished. and it seems like the more we eat, the more poorly nourished we get. we eat more and get less nourished and more sick. and for some people this means they take more supplements and search for ever more highly processed foods to fix the problems those processed foods caused in the first place.

think about that.

crazy, huh?

sometimes, you really have to say, “enough.”

you have to be willing to take your marbles and go home.

you have to get off the roller coaster and just try something completely different.

and maybe it’s not within the power of the system that made you sick to make you well.

but maybe it’s within your own power.

maybe you are more powerful than you ever imagined.

maybe by taking just one step at a time you can regain your own power.

what is the indian proverb? a journey of a thousand miles begins with one footstep?

i like that.

what i like even more is the joel salatin idea that you don’ t have to be afraid to try and fail, because you inevitably will fail at some things, and that’s fine. that’s part of the learning curve. failing makes you wiser and failing well- i.e. learning from the experience – makes that failure valuable. it’s all part of the process.

i’m not sure how many of you know this, so i’ll just say it here publicly again: when i put the veggie garden in my front yard, i had never grown a garden before.

isn’t that so funny in hindsight?

yep. i remember at some point there was a bit of a lull in the madness and i turned to *h and said, “you know what? if this garden fails, it’s going to be a pretty public failure!”

when i planted it, i had only expected it to be a little homeschooly project and a little neighborhood thing, so i never expected to have any kind of spotlight on it.


luckily, i was naive enough/dumb enough/ innocent enough not to realize that gardening was supposed to be really hard and that i should have been very intimidated by it, or i never would have started!

and i find that lots of things are like that. if nobody tells you to be afraid, then you just do it. and before you know it, you are succeeding.

so what if nobody told you it was scary to grow your own garden, or preserve your own food, or take charge of your health? what if nobody told you it was overwhelming to cook your own meals or set up rain barrels or get a few chickens? what if you didn’t think it was crazy to believe in yourself?

what if nobody told a baby that there was gravity and it couldn’t learn to walk?

oh, right…

get it?

put some courage behind your convictions, and sign up for the garden spring 2013: