While obesity is on the rise, ironically so is malnourishment. It is strange how such well fed people can be lacking in basic vitamins and minerals. This malnourishment is contributing to issues as severe as cancer or to the daily misery of chronic fatigue syndrome.

We all know that the modern diet of most Americans is unhealthy. In fact, the average American is deficient in at least three vital nutrients.

Data on American eating habits show that we prefer a one item meal, already prepared. Vegetables are side dishes and Americans don’t have time for something so superfluous.  In just the past 15 years, dinners including a vegetable, other than salad or potatoes, dropped by 10% to a grand total of only 41% of dinners.

The top 10 foods eaten, accounting for 50% of the foods and beverages we eat and drink are: sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, soda, milk, coffee, potatoes, salty snacks, fruit juice and cold cereal.

To make this worse, even if you eat your vegetables, you may not be getting as much nutrition as you think you are.

Food is losing its nutritional content 

Industrial agricultural wants to produce the best looking foods with the most stability for shipping and the longest shelf lives, rather than foods that taste good and have dense nutrition.  Contrary to what we are taught, the nutritional food tables the government gives us are old averages and there are no regulations that require the testing of nutritional content for produce or meat.

Unfortunately, the modern food system is producing food with low levels of vitamins and minerals. The contents of today’s food is dramatically lower than in preindustrial times and varies widely depending on the farming practices, breed of plant/animal, quality of soil, use of fertilizers or pesticides, and other factors.

According to one study, vegetables have declined in Magnesium by over 25% of their nutritional content, fruit by 17%, meat by 15%, and cheeses have by 26%.   Another study showed that in only 20 years the average piece of produce has lost: 6% protein, 16% calcium, 9% phosphorous, 15% iron, 38% riboflavin, and 20% vitamin C.

Volunteers at the ranch help to get the garden into shape for the spring

Quantity over quality

A multitude of studies show that the quality of American crops has significantly decreased. Nutritional levels have dropped as much as 40% since the 1950s.  According to a 2004 study by Dr. Davis in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, during the past 50 years “there have been intensive efforts to breed new varieties that have greater yield…Emerging evidence suggests that when you select for yield, crops grow bigger and faster, but they don’t necessarily have the ability to make or uptake nutrients at the same, faster rate.”

There is actually a term for this:  the “Dilution Effect.”  Methods such as fertilization and irrigation also appear to decrease nutrient concentrations.

In other words, the faster it grows and the more that is grown from one plant, the less good it is for you.

While this makes sense intuitively with plants, the same dilution effect also occurs with livestock.  Meat develops its nutritional content over time and the older the animal, the more nutrition it contains. Industrialized farmers try to grow animals as quickly as possible since it is hard to turn a profit farming. The chicken you buy at the grocery store, for example, is generally only six weeks old by the time it is processed.  The heritage breed we raise here at Flip Flop Ranch, on the other hand, is processed at five months and therefore contains much greater amounts of vitamins and minerals.   Animals raised on pasture and free range contain much greater levels of nutrition as well.

Fertilizers

Fertilizers are used for increasing the yield of the plant.  Whether traditional or industrial, all farmers put fertilizer on their plants.  Unfortunately, the type of fertilizer used varies dramatically as does the nutritional value of the later harvest.

For centuries, farmers have used crop rotation and manure to feed their crops.  Today’s chemical fertilizers only replace three nutritional components into the soil and eventually the soil runs out of nutrition to put back into the plant. Many vitamins can be produced by the plant itself, but if minerals are not first present in the soil, they will not be present in the crop grown there.

Additionally, Nitrogen-based fertilizers make crops bulkier, resulting in heavy and expensive produce with little nutrition.

Pesticides

Pesticides get a bad rap outside of industrial agriculture.  They have been linked to cancer, obesity, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, birth defects, Autism, and ADHD.  Most people don’t know that pesticides are also linked to vitamin and mineral depletion of the soil.

Many vitamins are created by vitamin-fixing bacteria near the plant roots.  These bacteria, as well as earthworms and other important insect life are destroyed by pesticides. Traditionally, vitamin B12 was commonly found in root vegetables. However, now that pesticides essentially eradicated them from modern farmland, root crops contain little to no B12.  The B12 content of spinach is doubled and barley is tripled when synthetic fertilizers are replaced with organic fertilizers.

The good news

The good news is that eating healthy is possible and that a diet of nutritionally dense food will make you feel oh so much better.  One professor at Victor Valley College, shows the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead to her students each semester. Inspired by the documentary, many students have changed their eating habits for the better and have reported increases in health, well-being, alleviation of symptoms from chronic illnesses, and even cancer gone into remission.  All from eating healthy.  It may take more effort, but isn’t it worth it to feel good?

Take the extra step to not only eat healthy, but to purchase from local farmers in the High Desert who raise old time breeds of plants and animals that are healthier than industrial breeds.  Here at Flip Flop Ranch, we currently have lamb, pork and beef for sale.  Rainbow Ranch Farms (www.rainbowranchfarms.com) offers a chicken CSA. All Natural Rabbits (www.allnaturalrabbits.com) offers dinner ready rabbits.  Abundant Harvest Organics (www.abundantharvestorganics.com) has a vegetable CSA with delivery stops all over the desert.  Healthy and nutritionally dense food is there if you want it.

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Have a question about farming? Ask Serina at Flipflopranch@gmail.com visit www.FlipFlopRanch.com or stop in at facebook.com/flipflopranch.