Across the country, we have seen an alarming increase in chronic diseases over the past decade. Many conditions are a result of deficient micronutrients within the body. So it’s essential that we look at the source of many of our nutrients: our food. Because of changing agriculture practices, our food supply is losing its nutritional value as a consequence of declining soil quality. There’s a way to determine if you’re getting nutrients you need: a Nutrient Deficiency Test.
We expect our food to contain the nutrients we need to thrive, especially when we are eating the kinds of foods that are supposed to energize us and make us healthy. However, it’s becoming clear that our food sources may be losing their nutritional value. That tomato you had for lunch… it most likely doesn’t have the amount of vitamins and minerals that it once provided years ago. The total amount of plant nutrients has decreased by 25% over the last 30 years in some places of the world.
The reason for this? It could be that our soil quality is declining as a consequence of unsustainable agriculture practices. Fortunately, there are ways we can improve and save the soil quality, as well as choices we can make to ensure we are consuming the most nutritious food sources available.
What Makes Soil Healthy
Similar to how we need healthy, nutrient-dense foods to nourish our body, plants need healthy, nutrient-dense soil to nourish theirs. Most people don’t realize that soil is made up of millions of tiny microorganisms. These microorganisms allow life to continue to grow from it. Plants and bacteria in the soil take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by using the sun’s energy. Other organisms feed on organic matter found in plants, and some feed on the nutrients from the decomposed matter.
Healthy soil needs minerals, air, water, organic matter, and those living organisms to produce nutrient-dense foods. Land that is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, along with calcium, magnesium, and sulfur is considered optimal for growing thriving plants. Those nutrients then get transferred into the food we eat, and that’s how we gain our daily nutrients. When we have healthy soil, we have healthy food. When we have healthy food, we have healthy people.
Our Current Soil Situation—It’s Not Good.
Right now, our food system is commonly set up so that we take plants (our food) from the soil when it’s ready to harvest, but we don’t replenish the land with the needed nutrients by adding in unused decaying matter. We continue taking from the earth until it’s empty of any beneficial nutrients, which means there is little sustenance for the growing food to absorb.
Issues With Single Crop Farms
Our agriculture system is also set up so that farms specialize in producing one single crop (like corn or wheat). Acres upon acres are used to growing one crop. The problem with this is that it reduces biodiversity in the soil—causing damage to the cycling of ecosystem nutrients. Until recently, food cultivation was confined to a smaller plot and an array of different crops being grown. This allowed each plant type to contribute different minerals and nutrients back into the soil. Livestock were also allowed to intermingle with the crops, which provides soil nutrients in the form of animal feces (like manure).
Pesticide Usage Hurts Our Soil & Our Health
When a single crop is grown, it can require more substantial pesticide use to make sure the entire plant isn’t taken out by one sickness. Since the biodiversity in the soil is so limited, one disease affecting the only remaining organisms in the soil can do significant damage. For this reason, large amounts of pesticides are used in today’s society.
Pesticides can degrade the soil since they can be toxic to the organisms living in the ground. Pesticide usage not only undermines soil quality, it also promotes the accumulation of these toxins in our bodies via eating the pesticide-sprayed food. Over time, this pesticide exposure can lead to several health issues including emotional disorders, reduced gut health, and respiratory problems.
How Regenerative Agriculture Can Create Better Soil to Enhance Our Health
Regenerative agriculture is a farming system that focuses on putting nutrients back into the soil instead of taking from it. The priority is the health of the land, followed by water management, fertilizer use, disease control, and other practices. By putting the focus on these areas, regenerative agriculture could be the answer to getting our soil back to its original health. Eventually, this intake can be tracked in regards to your bodies nutrient health with a Nutrient Deficiency Test.
When farmers plant a variety of crops, not just one, it can increase the biodiversity of the organism in the soil. Since each plant releases different kinds of nutrients back into the ground, it can feed a variety of different microorganisms. As mentioned above, the importance of having diverse microorganisms in the soil can ensure more fertile, nutrient-dense soil along with higher producing yield plants.
Enriched the Soil
By using cover crops, farmers can easily enhance their soil to produce more nutritious produce. Cover crops are plants that are used to cover the land in between harvest times when the area would be otherwise bare. These cover crops put different nutrients back into the soil, helping to restore them.
Improved Water Quality
When there is more organic matter in the soil, the soil can hold more water. To increase organic matter, farmers can adopt no-till methods, so the earth holds in carbon. This practice limits the release of carbon into the atmosphere while also preventing the soil from eroding. When the ground can hold more water, it can keep all the nutrients from being washed and eroded. The crops can also help to filter water, making the water quality increasingly better.
This practice reduces the amount of water and fertilizer needed for the crops since the nutrients can stay put more efficiently. Also, when soil’s water holding capacity is increased, it minimizes water runoff. This is a vital concept for improving water quality because water runoff can impact the surrounding waterways (and possibly our drinking water) by contaminating it with fertilizer and other unwanted chemicals.
Enhances Ecosystem Services
Taking care of the earth is a vital practice we need to start today to help our health. When we take care of our planet and give back its resources, it creates a positive feedback loop. Farmers who have healthy soil, have more nutritious crops that can then fuel our bodies in the most optimal way. According to one study, restoring environmental degradation increased ecosystem services (contributions to humans from the ecosystem like food, water, wood, etc.) by 25%.
If you want to learn more about our food system and sustainable agricultural practices, we recommend reading these books:
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
- Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin
What You Can Do To Increase Your Nutrient Intake
While you may feel like it’s out of your hands to improve soil health in the big scheme of things, there are ways you can support the practice of improving soil health – therefore supporting improvement in your health. We also offer a Nutrient Deficiency Test that can let you know your starting point.
- Buy Organic: Organic foods use less and safer pesticides than non-organic foods. Organic methods have healthier soil because there aren’t toxic pesticides killing off the microorganisms. It’s also good to buy organic, so you aren’t consuming the toxins yourself.
- Buy From Small Local Farms: These farms are more likely to have a variety of crops on their land and therefore more biodiverse and healthier soil. Find a local farm through Kansas City Food Circle’s directory of farms.
- Grow Your Own Food: If you have space, grow your own garden! You will know exactly what is going into your soil and on your plants. You can take the methods of regenerative agriculture and implement them in your own little (or big) garden. Need some inspiration? Watch the Biggest Little Farm.
- Create Your Own Compost: One of the easiest and cheapest ways to create nutritious foods is by creating your own compost. Not only are you avoiding waste going into the landfill, but you are using your scraps to rejuvenate your soil. The food scraps break down, providing nutrients for your next plants. For folks in the Kansas City area, Compost Collective KC is a great resource.
If you are worried that you aren’t getting the optimal nutrients for your health, in2GREAT offers micronutrient lab testing to determine if you are deficient in any vital area. They can also work with you to ensure that your body is balanced and working correctly in all areas so that you can feel your best. Contact them via their online form or give them a call at (913) 906-7787.