Anne Biklé and David R Montgomery, writers of What your food ate, join us to talk about the connection between soil- building agriculture practices and human health, and the differences in healthy compounds in our food, both plants and animal protein connected to the way that food has been grown.
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This episode is part of the Nutrient Density in Food series!
This series is supported by the A Team Foundation, who support food and land projects that are ecologically, economically and socially conscious. They contribute to the wider movement that envisions a future where real food is produced by enlightened agriculture and access to it is equal. The A Team are looking to make more investments and grants in the space of bionutrients. You can find out more on ateamfoundation.org.
Anne and David have studied over 1000 papers looking at the connection between soil health and human health. For everyone who keeps saying a carrot is a carrot and a calorie is a calorie, the science has proven and continues to prove otherwise. Although we don’t understand all the nuances and connections, we can safely say that healthy soil leads to healthy food, which leads to healthy gut systems and then leads to healthy people.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SOIL HEALTH AND HUMAN HEALTH
According to David, back in the 40s, and 50s, much research mentioned the connection between microbial communities in the soil and plants. In the following 80 years much more has been learned about those connections, how they work and the role of symbiotic relationships between soil bacteria and fungi around the roots of plants, and how that affects and supports the health of plants and crops. Depending on how we treat the soil, we can either promote the beneficial compounds or reduce them. There’s a whole world of phytochemicals, phytonutrients and other compounds and their effects that are beneficial to health.
‘The more that David and I have done research in this area, two things are pretty clear: farming practices can change the quality of the soil, and the quality of the soil has a big influence on the quality of the food’ – Anne Biklé
SCIENCE ISN’T SET UP TO STUDY SUCH A COMPLEX CONNECTION SPANNING DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS
Many disciplines need to be connected to link the dots between soil health and human health, but science has traditionally been divided into specific disciplines and tends not to look beyond that. David believes that one of the things that hindered taking up the argument in scientific circles was the lack of an understanding of the mechanisms involved, and it is when things don’t have a solid explanation behind them that scientists turn their back on them.
‘The soil, animals, and the human body, you’re talking about the connections between each of those, it gets very complex. […] Science wasn’t really ready with explanations when some of these connections were first posited and kicked around. And so they weren’t given much credence’. – David R. Montgomery
‘One of the things we really had to do in writing this book was dive into a whole bunch of different fields, soil science, agronomy, animal husbandry, human health, and both chronic and infectious diseases.’ – David R. Montgomery
WHAT THE PAPER OF ANNE AND DAVID FOCUSSED ON
Anne and David looked at 10 pairs of farms, from California to Connecticut, some vegetable farms, corn and soy, sorghum and peas, and they found that, on average, phytochemicals and micronutrients, as well as soil health, were higher in all of the regeneratively grown crops.
‘We wanted to look at the soil health-building practices. So we measured soil organic matter and soil health to try and see whether the regenerative farms actually had healthier soil than their neighbouring conventional farms [….] and on average, there were differences in what was coming off the crops as well. And most strikingly and consistently across the board are differences in the phytochemical levels.’ – David R. Montgomery
‘What we’re doing here is we’re getting the same crop, the same soil, and yet different practices’- Anne Biklé
‘One thing that was sort of lacking in the literature is a specific assessment of soil health, alongside a specific assessment of a crop on two neighbouring farms’ – Anne Biklé
THE KEY TO THE WHAT YOUR FOOD ATE BOOK
Phytochemicals are compounds and molecules that naturally occur in plants, they make them for their benefit, but many of these benefits also function and purposes in our body. They help normalise cell functions, help our cells and tissues, etc. We don’t know all the compounds and molecules that are in plant foods. There are tens of thousands of phytochemicals across the entire botanical world, but we don’t know everything that they do for us.
‘I think we’re really early in that research because for so long nutritional research, and dietary pundits have just mostly been focused on fats, carbohydrates, and protein as like, that’s what we all need to think about in our food.’ – Anne Biklé
‘Grass-fed ruminants have a much higher omega-three content in their fats. And it turns out, that translates over into meat and dairy. And so the human diet has changed greatly because of how we changed our livestock diet.’ – David R. Montgomery
‘One of the big conclusions of the book is that what’s good for the land is good for us too. And so as we look at investment opportunities in the agricultural sector, doing better by the land should add value to what comes off the land in terms of its connection to human health.’ – David R. Montgomery
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED
Koen, Anne, and David also talked about:
- Our bodies are attracted to food that has a better nutrient density;
- Omega three and six ratios;
- Is animal agriculture necessary or not?;
- What would Anne and David say to smart investors;
- What would they do with a 1b dollar investment fund.
To know more about the work of Anne and David and their latest book What your food ate, download and listen to this episode.
- Paper Soil health and nutrient density: preliminary comparison of regenerative and conventional farming
- Dig2Grow website and books
- Meet the Peecyclers. Their Idea to Help Farmers Is No. 1
- Citations Page What your food ate
- Dan Kittredge on why our biggest lever against climate change is paying for food quality
- Dan Kittredge – Making farmers focus on nutrient dense food
- Zach Bush on why all health issues come back to how we treat the soil
- Pierre Weill on selling 2b euro a year of animal protein as anti inflammatory food
- Nutrient Dense Food Interviews
Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.