Mini-Medical School #4, 2019
Stephanie Taylor MD PhD
This is a massive topic, but we will start with the familiar and countable, and then review a small sample of the many nutrients that missed being on the label.
The Daily Value is set by the FDA. The RDA is set by the Institute of Medicine.
The recommended daily intake of Fat is 65 grams (20 grams saturated), Cholesterol 300 mg, Sodium 2400 mg, Potassium 4,700 mg, Total Carbohydrate 300 grams and Fiber 25 grams. Protein DV is an optional listing but should be about 55 grams/day for a 150-pound person. There is recent research indicating that adults over 65 need more protein to prevent loss of muscle mass. Preliminary recommendations are 0.68 grams of protein per pound bodyweight, which would be 100 grams of protein daily.
Vitamins (Vital Amines) are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by humans, hence are considered “essential” in the diet. The vitamins were “discovered” between 1913 and 1948. The amount recommended is based on the amount needed to prevent a vitamin deficiency disease. The only Vitamin that you cannot get in your diet is Vitamin D. Biochemical Individuality is not considered in RDAs.
Fatty Acids are also essential and must be consumed in the diet. The essential fatty acids are Omega 3 and Omega 6 EFAs. Primary sources are fish, shellfish, oils, seeds and nuts.
Choline has an RDA of 550 mg daily and is probably one of the most common deficiencies. Dietary sources are meat, poultry, dairy and eggs.
Magnesium is a potential deficiency in anyone who consumes alcohol.
Not Everything That Counts Can be Counted
The nutritional content of a specific food is dependent on the growing environment and especially the soil. Nutrient content is also affected by storage shipping and processing. The inconvenient truth is that the Chinese were right to believe that the life energy of food is damaged by processing and refrigeration. Traditionally, they would shop every day and would never eat leftovers.
Soil quality is of immense importance. We are devastating our fertile soils worldwide. Regenerative agriculture is a very complex process which regenerates the soil. It uses a combination of no-till planting with mulch, rotational grazing, rainwater management, and companion planting with an emphasis on perennials. Rotational grazing, especially, has the potential to be a significant source of carbon trapping. One of the leaders in regenerative agriculture gives workshops at her Paicines Ranch. https://paicinesranch.com/about/conservation.php
Food has been always been used for medicine. A 21st century example of the scientific application of a food substance to enhance physiology are mushrooms. The initial studies were carried out in Japan in the late 20th century. Dr. Ikekawa observed that enoki farmers had about a 50% lower rate of cancer. He isolated a compound from enoki, proflamin. This was a low molecular weight polysaccharide that potentiated immunity. Since then there has been an explosion of research. Despite the interest, there is little direct application to patients in the US except by practitioners trained in Asian medicine. Mushrooms are antioxidants, antibiotic and antifungal and antiviral agents, lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, but most frequently act as anti-cancer compounds through their immune modulating action. This is a complex area and consultation with a trained professional is advised.
There is a class of root “vegetables” that are used to manage stress and enhance endurance called “adaptogens”. This means they modulate stress and aging. Most are familiar with Asian ginseng, but there are other varieties as well as Siberian ginseng, which is an entirely different species. Another family of root adaptogens are Rhodiola, Maca, and Ashwaganda. Jiaogulan and holy basil are leafy adaptogens.
Cooking foods can also increase nutritional value, specifically bone broths and soups. One hundred years ago, everyone had a soup pot on the stove that started with a rich bone broth and the day’s harvest.
Culinary herbs can be very nutritious and the medicinal power of herbs has been traditionally preserved in vinegars and alcoholic beverages.
This brief survey demonstrates that our health and the health of our environment depends on diversity. Intelligent management of our food supply requires a mind-set that is capable of balancing multiple simultaneous, interdependent factors and events. The days of monoculture are over, both in food production and in food processing. We need to move to a sophisticated, local food system that serves both our needs, the needs of the soil and the larger eco-system.