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The Dangers of Mineral Depletion

Minerals are a key part of the diet that allows your body to function properly. Research has shown that the food we eat today is nutritionally lagging behind food eaten by our grandparents. Mineral deficiency is not something we talk about in America today. The government adds minerals to our diet and we don’t even blink. From iodine in your salt to fluoride in your water, minerals are put there in an attempt to keep you healthy.

Minerals and your health
Minerals are a building block of life. The body uses them for many things, and when not enough of one or the other is available things start to go wrong.

Dr. Richard Olree has written a book called Minerals For the Genetic Code. In it, he describes how the cells in your body use the minerals in your food. The book is a wealth of information on how trace minerals have an impact on your overall health.

According to Dr. Olree, cells use minerals to create proteins for cellular reproduction. When certain minerals are absent, the cell makes a faulty copy, discards it, and tries again. Over time this process ages the cell faster than it would normally age so it dies before its time. This would point to an overall accelerated aging process for those who are deficient in certain minerals.

The body also uses minerals to remove waste and contaminants. Heavy metals, for instance, are attracted to certain minerals. The body will jettison the mineral in an attempt to get rid of the heavy metal, leading to depleted reserves for someone exposed to heavy metal poisoning.

The microbes that live in your gut are also dependent on minerals for their life cycles. All of the good bacteria benefits from a wide variety of available minerals.

Mineral depleted food
Research has shown that a carrot isn’t a carrot after all, because food grown in soil lacking available minerals can produce food lacking nutrients.

The Department of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin researched the question of whether soil depletion was causing mineral deficiencies. Their conclusion after studying the data is that of the three nutrients measured (Calcium – Ca, Magnesium – Mg, and Potassium – K) they remained in proportion, and that because of modern farming techniques there is a strong argument against depletion.

On the surface that sounds like good news, but if you look at the data itself you will wonder how they came to that conclusion. The chart of Figure 3 near the bottom of the page spells it out clearly. From 1963 to 1999 Ca dropped 33%, Mg dropped 21%, and K dropped 13%. How they can claim the drop is proportional is beyond me. You must keep in mind that landgrant colleges receive much of their funding from fertilizer companies.

In a telling study, Rothamstead Research in the UK compared the mineral content of wheat in the UK diet over the last 160 years. They found the content remained stable up until the 1960s when semi-dwarf hybrid wheat was introduced. The mineral content has “decreased significantly” since then.

Acres U.S.A. has a report in the book Eco-Farm showing that hybrids do not pick up nutrients like open-pollinated crops do. This can be another factor in mineral depletion of our food. Even if the minerals are available in the soil, they may not be utilized by the crop if it is incapable of absorbing them. The hybrids, even when grown using organic methods, were still deficient.

So far, research into GMO nutrition levels has been in comparison to existing hybrid crops. This research has found there is basically no nutritive difference between hybrid and GMO crops. But if, as we suspect, hybrid crops themselves are deficient in minerals, then the research has no basis of comparison to what can be achieved with heirloom varieties grown with organic methods.

Another problem arises from soil that has been soaked year after year in chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The microbial life in the soil has been in many cases destroyed, or in others made very unhealthy.

Microbes are responsible for much of the conversion of minerals from a form plants can’t use, into a form that is more readily absorbed. When you dump chemical fertilizer on the ground, these microbes no longer have a function and many become extinct locally in your soil. Others receive so much of what they love (Nitrogen – N, Phosphorus – P, Potassium – K), that they go on a population explosion. Getting all this ready-made diet, the microbes no longer have to break down soil minerals to feed, since they just feed on the fertilizer. It might make the plants tall and green, but the soil life might as well be dead.

Microbes also need plenty of organic matter in the soil in order to do their job efficiently. Organic matter is turned into humus and humus turns into humic acids which leach minerals into forms that plants can use.

The Haughley experiment from 1939 showed that microbial soil levels fluctuate throughout the year, rising to a high point during the greatest growth period of the crop.This points to a live soil that is responding to the needs of the plants growing in it. If the microbes are killed off with chemicals, all their work will be lost.

Fixing the problem
The best way to fix the problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Mineral depletion in your body or your soil can be prevented by feeding both the right kinds of things. But, if there is already a deficiency, there will be no one size fits all solution.

Soils around the world are all composed differently. Many times, soils on a single farm are different enough from each other to warrant different treatments. Certain areas of the country will be deficient in certain things, like the goiter belt. This is why we have iodized salt, since most crops are deficient in iodine, which causes goiters.

A natural source of iodine is kelp, harvested from cold pollution-free waters. Kelp is rich in micronutrients and can be eaten or bought in bulk and spread on your fields as a fertilizer.

Weeds may be a surprising solution to this problem. Many are good to eat, full of nutrition, including minerals. They also are good for your soil if handled correctly.

God told the children of Israel to plant for six years and allow the land to rest the seventh. When you allow a field to go fallow for a year, the weeds that are produced are diverse and each extracts a unique blend of minerals from the soil. Even if you do not follow a land Sabbath, your fields will benefit from a regular rotation that includes a fallow year.

When these weeds are tilled into the soil the following year, the microbes have many more minerals available in an easy to use form in all that organic matter.

Dr. Olree has a comprehensive section in his book detailing the mineral content of different plants. Some could be used for food to supplement your diet, while others could be encouraged to grow in your fallow fields to beef up any mineral shortfalls that may exist.

One last fix for the soil is manure. Adding manure to soil that has been depleted by chemical fertilizer has been shown to clean up the leftover salts that can harm your plants. Manure is an excellent food source for your soil microbes, since it is made up of digested plants already broken down somewhat into their baser parts.

Growing healthy food is so much more than the basic NPK that the fertilizer companies would have you think. Micronutrients are important to the most basic functions in our bodies and our soils. If we are to have truly healthy foods available to us, we need to educate ourselves and filter out the double-speak that comes when scientific research is driven by the mighty dollar.

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