What is Nutrient Density?

Nutrient density. I’ve been thinking about that concept a lot for the past couple of weeks. I’ve thought of it in the pasture, when I’m observing my herd. I’ve thought about it in the office while I’ve been treating patients. And I’ve thought about it when I’ve sat down to enjoy homemade meals with my family. To me, nutrient density can be summarized this way:

Healthy soil –> Healthy animals/plants –> Healthy consumers (us).

Let’s flesh out this idea a little more: In healthy soil, there is a plethora of vitamins and minerals. The vitamins and minerals in the soil create healthy plants and animals. When we consume the healthy animal or the plant from the nutrient-dense soil, we increase our nutrient-density and improve our wellness. Next, let’s visit each of these aspects individually.

1) In healthy soil, there is a plethora of vitamins and minerals.

Out in my pasture, there is a beautiful cycle that takes place. The soft soil that forms the ground is covered in carpets of grass and things that we call weeds. Those grass and weeds grow because of energy they get from the sun, an energy that infuses them with vitamins and minerals – the beginnings of nutrient density. When cows graze, they harvest those nutrients into their system. Then, when the cows eliminate, they deposit those re-formed nutrients back on the soil through their manure and urine. The microbiology of the soil works all those nutrients back into the ground where they can form roots for the grass to get nutrients from the sun to feed the animal so that….

2) The vitamins and minerals in the soil create healthy plants and animals.

When animals have free range to graze on swards of grass absorbing vitamins and minerals from the soil, the animals themselves are healthy. As I look across the US and I look at feedlots, I think of the feed additives and stimulants placed in the animals’ rations, and I wince. There is no way that is sustainable. Animals on commercial feedlots never taste fresh grass, and thus, their diet is limited to whatever is concocted for them in the trough – what is usually a high-starch meal filled with glyphosate – a toxic chemical being sprayed across our food sources. Just look up the articles written on the dangers of glyphosate. The residues of glyphosate in our meat, milk, and vegetables sold in supermarkets is wreaking havoc on our bodies, creating frightening levels of toxicity in individuals across the nation. Thus, our food, which should be a source of our wellness, is a source of our sickness. Like I said, it’s not sustainable. But I’ll tell you what is.

When the thousands of other small-scale farms across this nation like my own produce food locally to feed our communities, that is sustainable. And that sustainable cycle is the beginning of nutrient density. We have seen the bigger difference that our organic, free-range farming efforts make in the health of our families and ourselves. Which leads me to my next point….

3) When we consume the healthy animal or the plant from the nutrient-dense soil, we increase our nutrient-density and improve our wellness.

This point brings up another important point, something that is implied, but I will visit it anyway – in order to harvest the nutrients of the sun, the soil, and the sward of grass, we must consume animal products! This is why do I not believe that we can be vegetarians. In Scripture, just because after the flood, Noah was commanded by God to eat meat – for in God’s design, the fat-soluble vitamins are not found in a strictly vegetarian fare. Any vitamins or minerals found in plants are not as complete or bio-available as those found in the meat and flesh of grass-fed animals. Yes, there are nutrients, but the critical issue is, do I have a digestive system that can convert that nutrient density into my immune function, into my gastrointestinal system, into my muscles, and to support my brain? The answer is no. We must consume the products of healthy animals raised on the free-range if we are to obtain wellness.

Thus, could the rise in severe nutritional deficiencies in our nation today be attributed to the lack of nutrient density in the soil? And “enriched” foods have obviously not remedied the problem.

I’ll never forget the illustration I heard as a young boy. Alva Stutzman, an older lady in my church, once gave a stirring talk on food. In her talk, she asked an audience member to hand her his wallet. He complied, and she responded while thumbing through the bills, “You’ve got forty-eight dollars in here – that’s great!” She gingerly took forty-five dollars out and returned the three remaining dollars. He recoiled, “Whoa, you took my money!” She said, “No, I just enriched you. I took forty-eight, but I gave you three back. As we sat there in awe of her analogy, she spoke profundity into the ironic moment – “That’s what we do to our foods when we refine out the rich nutrients and add back synthetic things to make it an ‘enriched product.’” Uh-oh….

Suddenly the commercially grown fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats that have been “enriched with vitamins and minerals” have lost their appeal to me. All the good things were boiled, processed, or oxidized out. From the figurative forty-eight dollars of nutrients, there is a paltry three left.

And it’s not for me. I want my grass-fed steak to come from a cow raised on an organic pasture. I want it grilled – medium rare – and topped with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Next to the steak, I want vegetables from a local garden – picked when they’re ripe, prepared when they’re still fresh, and deposited on my plate. And regarding any grains I may eat, I want them whole, grown organically without the dangerous herbicides and pesticides, and prepared in such a way that the nutrients within them remain intact. That’s the way I want to eat. Because I know…

Healthy soil –> Healthy animals/plants –> Healthy consumers (us).

Hence, to me, nutrient density means that the nutrient capacity of the soil has been captured, transferred into the plant or the animal that I will be the consumer of. Then those nutrients will be absorbed, hopefully, through a healthy gastrointestinal system, and assimilated into my DNA. When I eat nutrient-dense foods like this, I am better for it.

It’s basic, but crucial. Nutrient density has to come from the soil to the grass, the grass to the animal, and the animal to the consumer. That was God’s design when he designed pastures to grow under sunny skies, and cow’s stomach’s to assimilate the nutrients of that grass, and for humans to assimilate the minerals and the fat-soluble vitamins within the meat and flesh of the animal.

When I’m eating my food from the free range, I’m capturing those nutrients from the food, and I’m better for it. And I’m not doing it with the addition of funny signs of “enrichment” – man’s pathetic attempts to improve God’s design with GMO seeds, herbicides, pesticides, and endless processing.

I eat organic, free-range food because I value nutrient density. But not only that, because I value obedience to my Creator’s design, and the principles He put in place when He started this big sphere spinning thousands of years ago.

Remember folks, the bottom line is: Nutrient density begins in the soil – the soil that either feeds the animal, or grows the plants I am eating. If the soil my food is grown in is lacking in nutrients, so is my food, and thus so is my body.

So never forget the crucial cycle:

Healthy soil –> Healthy animals –> Healthy consumers (us).

With you in health,
Dr. Michael