We live in a country where almost everyone can afford all the food they need. In fact, food here is so plentiful and cheap that we are more likely to eat too many calories than too few. In this day and age, famine is the least of our concerns. And yet, even with all that wealth at our disposal, we’re not rich in health. Many people, even though they get their calories, still don’t get enough nutrients. They become malnourished and subsequently develop health problems. What could explain this strange irony in our modern society? How is it that we, with all the food we need at our disposal, can still get sick from nutrient deficiency?
The problem is that the most ubiquitous, most heavily advertised, most addictive, and least expensive foods available to us are processed foods containing mostly white flour, sugar, and artificial or rancid fats. These foods are high in calories and low in nutrition. Don’t think that calories are a bad thing. We can’t live without calories, and lots of them. But we can’t live just on calories either.
The only reason we can get so many calories and so little nutrition from processed foods is because they’ve been processed. Natural, whole foods contain the right balance of calories and nutrition. In the old days, as long as you got enough food, you were certain to get all the nutrients you needed. But food processors have gotten so adept at separating the nutrients from the calories, and at packaging and selling them separately, that even if we get both junk food and vitamin supplements, we benefit from neither.
When we eat processed foods that are low in nutrients, instead of eating nutritious foods, two things happen. The first is that we stop adding nutrition to our body’s supply, giving it less to work with. Another is that we force it to use up what little it already has in the process of digesting, assimilating, and eliminating the processed and toxic foods. Foods and ingredients that result in a net nutrient loss include white flour, white sugar, corn syrup, soft drinks, caffeine, trans fat, pasteurized milk, artificial sweeteners and any other artificial and synthetic substances. Eating mostly these foods is a form of self–starvation; it makes us malnourished.
Being malnourished isn’t bad merely in an abstract, theoretical sense. It causes a variety of very real health problems. In fact, the way we discovered nutrients in the first place was by cutting them out of our diet and getting sick as a result.
Fortunately, it’s easy to address nutrient deficiencies. Simply add into your diet the foods that contain the missing nutrients! This is how, in the 19th century, ship captains such as James Cook addressed outbreaks of scurvy (which comes from vitamin C deficiency) on long voyages. Cook took barrels of high–C sauerkraut with him, added it to the sailors’ diet, and didn’t lose a single man to scurvy.
Scurvy is fairly rare in our time, but there are many other common health problems that can come from nutrient deficiency. Review the “symptoms of deficiency” for the vitamins and minerals listed below to see if any of them apply to you, and try adding the recommend foods to take care of your symptoms. Some foods, like leafy green vegetables and sea vegetables, help with almost every deficiency because they are so high in so many different vitamins and minerals. Use them to take out multiple deficiencies at once! If you have any questions about how to add any of these recommended foods to your diet, send me an email.
Symptoms of Deficiency in Major Nutrients
Calcium: Osteoporosis (bone loss), fragile/brittle bones and nails, frequent dental problems, joint pain, arthritis, irregular heartbeat, and hypertension. See also Magnesium.
Foods to eat: spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, swiss chard, kombu (a sea vegetable), celery, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, yogurt, raw milk, raw cheese, blackstrap molasses.
Iron: Anemia, fatigue, pale skin, weakness, brittle nails, pica (appetite for non–foods), constipation, depression.
Foods to eat: green leafy vegetables (mustard greens, collard greens, kale, cabbage, broccoli, spinach), medium rare red meat (grass–fed), naturally raised pork, liver (organic), seafood, sea vegetables, beans, nuts, eggs, dried fruit.
Magnesium: skin inflammation, allergies, anxiety, asthma, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, heart disease, and calcium deficiency symptoms (magnesium is needed for the absorption of calcium. Without magnesium, calcium forms deposits in soft tissue, including heart valves, increasing the likelihood of heart disease). Foods to eat:green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, other nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans and tofu, seafood, sea vegetables.
Potassium: fatigue, or chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgia (muscle cramps and pain), constipation, high blood pressure/hypertension. Foods to eat: green leafy vegetables, potatoes (with skins), sweet potatoes, winter squash, tomatoes, beans, bananas, and almost all fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin A: poor vision, dry eyes, eye inflammation, dry mouth, dry/wrinkled skin, allergies, dandruff, weak immune system, cancer. Foods to eat: organic grass–fed butter, raw milk, organic liver, cod liver oil, eggs, carrots, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, winter squash, peaches, cantaloupe.
Vitamin B complex (B1: Thiamin, B2: Riboflavin, B3: Niacin, B6, B9: Folic Acid, B12): Lethargy, fatigue, severe weight loss, hypoglycemia, beriberi (B1); chapped, cracked lips, mouth/tongue inflammation, sensitivity to sunlight, bloodshot/itchy/watery eyes (B2); pellagra, weakness, sensitivity to cold, lack of appetite, skin infections, high cholesterol, alzheimer’s (B3); anemia, depression, high blood pressure (B6); anemia, birth defects, depression, anxiety, fatigue, heart disease (B9); pernicious anemia, fatigue, diarrhea, muscle spasms (B12) Foods to eat: Whole grains, liver, eggs, asparagus, cauliflower, potatoes with skin (B1); raw milk, raw cheese, leafy green vegetables, organ meats, beans, almonds (B2); whole wheat and other whole grains, beans and peanuts, mushrooms, sesame seeds, fish, meat (B3); whole grains, seafood, meat, leafy green vegetables (B6); leafy green vegetables, beans, sunflower seeds, whole grains, root vegetables (B9); all animal products, esp. liver, shellfish, raw milk, and eggs(B12).
Vitamin C: scurvy (incl. bleeding gums), weak immune system, asthma, respiratory problems, allergies, frequent colds and infections, slow healing wounds. Foods to eat: Leafy green vegetables, sour fruits (strawberries, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, raspberries, pineapples), melons, kiwis, papaya, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, celery, asparagus.
Vitamin D: Rickets, osteoporosis, other bone disorders, depression, seasonal affective disorder, schizophrenia, periodontal disease, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.Foods to eat: The best source of vitamin D is actually sunlight, by means of which we synthesize the vitamin. If unable to get adequate sunlight, you must rely on animal products from fish (particularly cod liver oil) and from animals that got enough sunlight, including grass–fed, free–range beef, pork, raw milk, chicken and eggs.
Vitamin E: Cancer, leg cramps, wrinkles, parkinson’s disease, alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, cataracts, heart disease, neurological disorders. Foods to eat: Whole grains, esp. whole wheat, olives and olive oil, nuts and seeds and their oils (such as sunflower, sesame, walnut, almond, and hazelnut) leafy green vegetables, asparagus, cucumbers, seafood, and raw milk.