Sunday, October 2, 2011

We Humans are 4% Minerals

Yep, that's right... this post is about the 4% of our bodies that are minerals, but a very important 4%!  It came about because someone asked me why I'm adding minerals (like Greensand and Azomite) to my new sheet-composted garden area.

96% of our human body is composed of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen... the other 4% of our body mass contains over 70 or more minerals, some in miniscule amounts and most of which are unfortunately no longer readily available in our soils. Without that mere 4%, we would die. 

Minerals participate in a multitude of bio-chemical processes necessary for the maintenance of health in human beings, animals and plants that inhabit our planet. There would be no life without minerals!

Minerals control literally millions of chemical and enzymatic processes which occur in the human body at all times. That alone should make us want to know more of the importance of minerals for our health and survival, and what to do about the current lack.

So What's the Big Deal about Adding Minerals to my Soil??

Simple. If the soil doesn't have the minerals, there's no way for vegetables to absorb them!

Consider: We no longer get as many minerals from our vegetables as we got 50 years ago. The nutritional value of modern foods isn't just declining, it's collapsing. We cannot live healthily without adequate minerals; they are the fundamental source and the basic building blocks of life.

Over-farming, soil depletion, commercial fertilizer, hybrid crops and genetic modifications are slashing the nutrients found in our fruits and vegetables. In fact, we'd have to eat 10 servings of spinach to get the same level of minerals as from just one serving about 50 years ago.

And that's only the beginning.
Take a look at the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) nutritional values for fruits and vegetables today compared to 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%
Collard Greens: Vitamin A is down 45%; Potassium is down 60%; and Magnesium is down 85%

To be fair, some vegetables appear to be gaining vitamins, or at least vitamin A. Carrots, for example, have more of the vitamin now than they did in 1963. Why is a still a mystery. But the phenomenon has apparently occurred just in the nick of time. The National Academy of Sciences has issued an alert that it takes twice as many vegetables to get the daily requirement of vitamin A as previously thought. (Carrots and pumpkin are exempt from the caveat.)

Despite the apparent increase of vitamin A in carrots, most vegetables are losing their vitamins and minerals. Nearly half the calcium and vitamin A in broccoli, for example, has disappeared. Collards are not the greens they used to be. If you're eating them for minerals and vitamin A, be aware that the vitamin A content has fallen from 6500 IUs to 3800 IUs. Their potassium has dropped from from 400 mg to 170 mg. Magnesium has fallen sharply-57 mg to 9. Cauliflower has lost almost half its vitamin C, along with its thiamin and riboflavin. Most of the calcium in pineapple is gone... from 17 mg (per 100 grams raw) to 7. And the list goes on and on.

However, this is not just a 21st Century phenomena!

Back in 1936, a group of doctors introduced Document No.264 to the floor of the United States Senate. It was a dire warning that the mineral content of the soil was eroding. Vegetables were losing their power and people were at risk. Unfortunately Congress did nothing.

Today, it's worse; much worse. Minerals like iron and magnesium have dropped by more than 80 percent. That's from commercial farming technology and powerful fertilizers that practically sterilize the soil... leaving it with little to no mineral content. 

Commercial farming methods have depleted the soil of every essential nutrient, except NPK (nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous). Our planet's soil is being stripped of minerals, and generally nothing is being done to replace them.

Do we even eat enough vegetables?
No way. The preferred American meal is one-dish, already prepared. Unless a vegetable can be squirted out of a bottle, it’s a nonentity for too many of us. Why? We’re in a hurry. Vegetables are considered side dishes, and Americans don’t have time for such frivolity. The decline is relentless. Within the last 15 years, the percentage of all dinners that include a vegetable (other than salad or potatoes) dropped another 10%. It’s now 41%. (Data Source)

I haven't totally figured out the mineral thing yet in my garden, but I've been working on it going on 5 years now. (The Greensand and Azomite mainly add trace minerals rather than address the major ones like calcium, although they do contain some calcium.) Balanced soil minerals is very complex subject and I'm not convinced anyone has all the answers. For example, a mineral like calcium is one the microbes can/will eat and convert to plant food. We know the microbes make calcium available to plants, but which of the 5 or more forms of calcium should we put on our soils?

Until I can afford $150+ professional soil tests, I have to rely on what I can glean from my research and my gut intuition. My gut instinct tells me that adding trace mineral mixes like Greensand and Azomite has to help put some of that 4% of minerals back into my soil and thus into my vegetables.

My Thanks to Keith Scott-Mumby MD, PhD for the idea that sent me searching for more information on that 4% of our minerals.

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