From Dirt to Diet

A study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) showing the loss of vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables since 1975.

  • Apples: Vitamin A is down 41%
  • Sweet peppers: Vitamin C is down 31%
  • Watercress: Iron is down 88%
  • Broccoli: Calcium and vitamin A are down 50%
  • Cauliflower: Vitamin C is down 45%; vitamin B1 is down 48%; and vitamin B2 is down 47%
  • Collards greens: Magnesium is down 85%

You read that right, an apple in 1975 is nearly twice as nutritious as one grown today. This is not good.

Dr. Charles Northern of Alabama was the researcher who brought this whole issue to light back in the 1930s. It was his work that prompted the Senate document from before. Here are Dr. Northenʼs words.

“Bear in mind, that minerals are vital to human metabolism and health – and that no
plant or animal can appropriate to itself any mineral which is not present in the soil upon
which it feeds.

“When I first made this statement I was ridiculed, for up to that time people had paid
little attention to food deficiencies and even less to soil deficiencies. Men eminent in
medicine denied there was any such thing as vegetables and fruits that did not contain
sufficient minerals for human needs. Eminent agricultural authorities insisted that all soil
contained all necessary minerals. They reasoned that plants take what they need, and
that it is the function of the human body to appropriate what it requires. Failure to do so,
they said, was a symptom of disorder.

“Some of our respected authorities even claimed that the so-called secondary minerals
played no part whatever in human health. It is only recently that such men as Dr. McCollum of Johns Hopkins, Dr. Mendel of Yale, Dr. Sherman of Columbia, Dr. Lipman of Rutgers, and Drs. H. G. Knight and Oswald Schreiner of the United States Department of Agriculture have agreed that these minerals are essential to plant, animal, and human feeding.

“We know that vitamins are complex chemical substances which are indispensable to nutrition, and that each of them is of importance for the normal function of some special structure in the body. Disorder and disease result from any vitamin deficiency.

“It is not commonly realized, however, that vitamins control the body’s appropriation of minerals, and in the absence of minerals they have no function to perform. Lacking vitamins, the system can make some use of minerals, but lacking minerals, vitamins are useless.

“Neither does the layman realize that there may be a pronounced difference in both foods and soils – to him one vegetable, one glass of milk, or one egg is about the same as another. Dirt is dirt, too, and he assumes that by adding a little fertilizer to it, a satisfactory vegetable or fruit can be grown.

“The truth is that our foods vary enormously in value, and some of them aren’t worth eating, as food. For example, vegetation grown in one part of the country may assay 1,100 parts, per billion, of iodine, as against 20 in that grown elsewhere. Processed milk has run anywhere from 362 parts, per million, of iodine and 127 of iron, down to nothing.

“Some of our lands, even in a virgin state, never were well balanced in mineral content, and unhappily for us, we have been systematically robbing the poor soils and the good soils alike of the very substances most necessary to health, growth, long life, and resistance to disease. Up to the time I began experimenting, almost nothing had been
done to make good the theft.

“The more I studied nutritional problems and the effects of mineral deficiencies upon disease, the more plainly I saw that here lay the most direct approach to better health, and the more important it became in my mind to find a method of restoring those missing minerals to our foods.

“The subject interested me so profoundly that I retired from active medical practice and for a good many years now I have devoted myself to it. It’s a fascinating subject, for it goes to the heart of human betterment.”

If we arenʼt in crisis mode when it comes to depleted soils, then what constitutes a crisis?

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