Food Quality and Digestion
Foods vary tremendously in nutrient density and quality. This is easily confirmed by our bodies own internal refractometer; our sense of taste. We all like sweeter carrots, cherries, tomatoes, watermelons etc. We instinctively prefer sweeter produce. This is significant because in addition to having higher carbohydrates (natural plant sugars) these foods also have higher mineral density and a greater spectrum of trace minerals. Lower quality produce has poorer taste, lower carbohydrates and lower mineral density and spectrum. This explains why people eating low-quality foods have such a large appetite. The body is desperate for minerals and to satisfy its mineral requirement more food is consumed. This leads to the observation that such people are overfed and undernourished. High quality foods produce a stronger sense of satisfaction or fullness after eating a smaller portion. Let’s begin with two basic questions:
What is food and what is its function in the human body?
These are strange questions that are often not given much thought. Is food something that is just chewed and swallowed in order to relieve us of that gnawing pain in our stomachs? No, it is much much more.
Food is a complete package designed to provide the human body with a balance of minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, enzymes and various other properties such as oils, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. It takes all these elements in foods and many more not listed, collectively called nutrition, to be in balance in order for the human body to be properly nourished.
Food provides the nutrition our bodies need in order to live, grow, reproduce, and regain our health. Sadly, much of the food consumed today does not provide this balance of nutrition. When this happens health begins to falter and disease nips at the heels.
This reminds me of some interesting research that came out of Europe during WWII. Prior to the war researchers were observing food purchasing habits of families and monitoring each family’s health. When the war hit Europe the economy declined and food prices became much higher. The researchers assumed the families would buy lower-quality produce since it was cheaper. Instead, most families used whatever means they had to buy smaller quantities of the highest quality foods they could find. The researchers were surprised to find out that even though the families buying the highest-quality foods were clearly underfed they remained in amazingly good health. The other families that had purchased lower-quality foods had sufficient to eat, but due to its poorer nutrition, suffered in the level of their health by the end of the war.
This philosophy of eating the highest quality of fruits and vegetables is still practiced in some parts of Europe and Japan today. Would you believe that the very best quality fruit grown in America today is not consumed in America? It is exported and eaten by Europeans and the Japanese.
Grading Food Quality
Produce can be graded in its quality based upon its reading on a refractometer. The refractometer measures dissolved minerals and plant sugars. Another name for this is Total Dissolved Solids. This has been covered more fully in the What Is Brix? page. Credit for the concept of grading produce quality goes to Carey Reams. Arden Andersen further refined the concept of grading food similar to the grading scale used by educational institutions. In his scale produce is categorized in grades A, B, C, D, and E with grade A being excellent and near perfect and grade E being a total failure. The original chart compiled by Carey Reams, Dan Skow, and Charles Walters only listed grades A-D. Lets look at each grade in ascending order.
E Grade - The Drop Out
Produce graded in the E range is a complete failure. This type of produce confers no health benefit upon consumption. It is a net negative on the body’s health. This type of food is a major contributor to indigestion, completely lacks rare earths such as iodine, chromium, and vanadium and is tremendously calcium deficient. As a result of its calcium deficiency it is very susceptible to toxins from heavy metals and pesticides. Proteins are not properly formed in this food and as a result this produce is loaded with free nitrates.
The nutritional quality of this food is so poor that it can only be brought to the market by the heavy use of pesticides. Left to nature this type of food would rot and be consumed by insects long before it reached marketability. The E grade on produce relates to brix readings lower than Poor on the Brix Chart. Is this produce in our supermarkets today? All it takes is a refractometer and you can find out. P.S. Don't eat it!
D Grade - The Functional Failure
Food graded in the D range represents a step up from the E Range. This type of food is typical of what is commonly found in most supermarkets. It sustains life but not health. It rots easily and is void of rare earth minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins. Foods in the D range have poorly formed proteins, excess nitrates, and poor enzyme levels. This type of food must have crop protection to make it to the market.
Like grade E this food is calcium deficient and thus susceptible to picking up toxins from heavy metals and pesticides. Foods in this level can easily lead to indigestion for people with weak digestion. Foods with this level of nutrition should not be eaten. Produce graded as a D relate to the brix readings from Poor to the beginning of Average.
C Grade - The Mediocre
Produce graded in the C range represents a substantial increase in quality from grades D and E. This type of food sustains life and can even benefit someone consistently eating foods in the low D to E range. Foods in this grade can be eaten with less indigestion than grades D and E.
In the bigger picture this level of produce quality still falls far short of ideal and is unacceptable. This is the food quality Dr. Charles Northern so adamantly rejected in 1936. To many people who have become so used to eating food in the D and E grade this food represents such an improvement in taste that it is thought to be good quality— it is not. This level of food still has excess nitrates even though the protein quality is better.
Laboratory analysis on C grade produce will show some trace and rare earth minerals along with some antioxidants, vitamins, and enzymes. Calcium levels will be higher than in grades D and E as well. Unfortunately these nutrients do not translate very well into increased health. Arden Andersen illustrates it this way. These nutrients are like employees that show up for work but only goof off all day—they are not productive. Produce graded in the C level corresponds to brix readings from the Average to the beginning of Good.
B Grade - The Rising Star
Food graded in the B range can have a great impact on most people’s health. This type of produce has good nutritional density and carbohydrate levels, which facilitates proper digestion. With good nutrition and digestion the body enjoys greater energy levels and a stronger immune system. Calcium levels in these foods are much better than the lower grades with less susceptibility to taking on toxic substances.
Raw foods in the B range will contain good levels of enzymes, will taste great, and produce a strong sense of satisfaction when eaten. B range foods supply good levels of vitamins, antioxidants, oils, and trace minerals. They also supply acceptable levels of rare earth minerals such as selenium, iodine, chromium, and vanadium. Foods in the B range do not cause indigestion. This food level is the lowest quality foods we should buy or eat with an ever increasing desire to get all our foods from the A grade. B range foods correspond to brix readings on the brix chart from Good to the beginning of Excellent.
A Grade - The Mother Lode!
Top-quality produce in the A grade are the crown jewel of foods. These foods taste so good they can only be described as heavenly. The nutrition offered by these foods are as good as they taste—outstanding. These foods have virtually no free nitrates, do not cause indigestion, and have properly formed proteins. A-grade foods have very high levels of vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and trace minerals. As a result they have the greatest impact on improving health and providing nutrition against disease. Calcium is abundantly supplied by these foods and rare earth nutrients such as selenium, chromium, iodine, vanadium, and cobalt are well supplied by A-grade foods.
Foods in the A grade are the very antithesis of everything in the E range. A regular diet of A-grade foods leads to the greatest development of mental acuity and our genetic potential physically. A grade produce relates to the Brix Chart with refractometer readings in the Excellent column. These numbers indicate the beginning of excellent so many readings can go beyond this. A-grade foods are quite rare at present but this is changing.
The grading scale discussed here works well for checking fresh produce but what about other types of foods such as grains and animal products? These foods are not so easy to measure as to their intrinsic nutritional qualities. This is where knowing the condition of the soil is very important. Grains with a higher test weight will contain greater mineral density and are preferred over lighter weight grains.
For animal products it is important to know the feed quality of what the animals are consuming and the soil condition they are grown on. Cultural practices such as access to grass and fresh air are other important considerations when selecting animal products.
What is Digestion?
Now that we have looked at the various grades of food lets take a closer look at how food quality impacts the digestive process. The digestive process acts as a governor of our health. If we are not properly digesting food then the energy in the food we consume does not become available to the body. In a nutshell digestion is all about getting energy (nutrition) from food. This energy comes in the form of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins, oils, and enzymes to name a few.
Digestion is a complex process with many interrelated components. The bottom line is that foods with high mineral density and quality allow the digestive process to work better while low-quality foods cause indigestion. Indigestion is defined in this article as the body not getting the energy or nutrition from food. Some of the components involved in the digestive system include hydrochloric acid, enzymes, liver function, and the microbiology in our G. I. tract.
The liver plays a foundational role in our digestion. It produces many enzymes used during the digestive process and it functions with the bile to produce hydrochloric acid. Digestive enzymes work in the body as catalysts bringing about chemical reactions. These reactions break food down to simpler forms and release energy along the way. Raw foods have enzymes in them. Cooking destroys enzymes so the body turns to the liver to make enzymes. Poor-quality foods do not have enough functioning enzymes even if eaten raw. In this situation digestive enzymes in capsule form can really give the body an assist. When the body calls on the liver to make digestive enzymes it responds—but at a cost. The liver consumes some of its mineral reserves to make the enzymes.
Once the body has manufactured the digestive enzymes they need to be activated. How does this occur? Heat and co-enzymes are two methods that activate this process. A quote from Dr. A.F. Beddoe in an article entitled The Importance of Natural Mineral Sugars is in order. In his article sugar energy he refers to high carbohydrate levels in produce:
Dr. A.F. Beddoe
"Sugar energy is vitally involved in the natural digestive processes, because it is the most important substance for supplying the heat energy that many digestive enzymes need to function properly. Yes, sugar supplies heat through a natural fermentation process that manufactures small amounts of alcohol required to ideally regulate our body’s core temperature. Without the proper heat from mineral rich natural sugars, natural body alcohols will be deficient impairing the heat activated digestive enzymes, produced by the liver, resulting in indigestion."
Low brix produce does not have enough carbohydrates in them and as a result the heat sensitive enzymes are not activated and indigestion results. When Dr. Reams conducted his cooking classes in the 1980’s he taught his students how to increase the mineralization and carbohydrate levels in poorer quality foods by using such ingredients as molasses, honey, and All Spices and Herbs (ASH).
Another important component in the digestive system is the strength of our gastric juices. A weak gastric juice will not hydrolyze or break down the food we eat. When this happens nutrition in the food is wasted because the body cannot take hold of it. Babies have weak gastric juices, that is why we cannot feed them raw vegetables or steak at birth. Doing so could cause great harm to their body and may even lead to their death. Regrettably, many adults also suffer from weak gastric juices. This seems to be the result of many years of eating food with poor mineral density. In his classes on human nutrition, Dr. Reams often pointed out that “The weaker the gastric juice, the less the body is able to extract from the diet—especially those minerals with a higher specific gravity.” Minerals with a higher specific gravity include trace minerals and the rare earth minerals.
The strength of the gastric juice goes back to the health of the liver. When the liver is supported with the right nutrition it will function properly and create gastric juice with the proper strength. This naturally leads to the question of what specific nutrition is critical for liver function. According to Dr. Reams the liver has 3 primary needs: water, oxygen, and calcium. The liver also has 3 secondary nutritional requirements: iron, vitamin A, and iodine.
When poor quality food is consumed the building blocks for proper liver function are not supplied. Lets zero in on one of these building blocks, calcium. Calcium levels in produce rise and fall with the brix readings therefore A-grade produce will supply a higher amount of calcium readily available to the body than will D-grade. Compounding the problem of low calcium levels is the issue of poor nutrient absorption. Poor digestion further exacerbates the low calcium levels present in D-grade produce. After years of experimenting and researching food quality and mineral absorption, longtime Reams’ student Rex Harrill has come up with a basic guideline for mineral absorption from various sources. As a disclaimer it must be pointed out that the digestive health of each person could dramatically change/reduce the percentages.
|Poor quality food:||10-30%|
|Juice from poor quality food:||50-60%|
|High brix food:||50-80%|
|Juice from high brix food:||90-95%|
Kevin Trudeau, in his book Natural Cures has this to say about calcium:
Kevin Trudeau on Calcium
"The master mineral that everyone is deficient in is calcium. Like Vitamin E, our food source has been depleted of calcium. Also, much of the food we consume, such as carbonated drinks and coffee, as well as prescription and non-prescription drugs, block calcium absorption. Therefore, I can categorically assure you that you are calcium deficient. Calcium, in my opinion, is the most important mineral in the body. When you are deficient in calcium, nothing else works well. Increasing calcium to the level that it is supposed to be and eliminating the deficiency does wonderful things to the body. It increases oxygen to all the cells, and increases the ability for electric energy to flow better throughout the entire body. Like Vitamin E, it allows the cells to detoxify quicker and faster. It relieves stress and is a major element needed to keep the body alkaline. Research shows that bringing calcium levels back to normal makes weight loss happen faster and easier."
Mr. Trudeau’s observations on the importance of calcium echo what many prominent researchers have known 2 generations ago. Dr. William Albrecht titled calcium as “The Prince of Nutrients.” Dr. Reams frequently noted that that plants, animals, and the human body need calcium more than any other mineral by weight or volume.
In addition to calcium the body must have trace minerals to ensure proper digestion. The role of trace minerals in digestion and health is enormous. Trace minerals function as co-factors in enzymatic reactions. Without these trace mineral co-factors many enzymes are useless and do not bring about proper digestion.
Trace minerals also play another important role in nutrient adsorption. The upper gastro-intestinal tract is full of beneficial bacteria. These microorganisms further digest food after it leaves the stomach and help make minerals available for easy assimilation into the body. The stronger the microbial level in the upper G.I. tract, the more minerals are made available to the body.
Recent research by Dr. Richard Olstree as outlined in the October 2005 issue of Acres USA show that the trace mineral yttrium is absolutely vital for a couple bacterial species that play a crucial role in the gastro-intestinal tract. Dr. Olstree’s research in the important role of trace minerals and human health confirms why we need to be eating foods with high mineral density.
Human health requires a properly functioning digestive system. For the digestive system to remain in good health the body must be supplied with proper carbohydrate levels, good quantities of major minerals, enzymes, trace minerals to activate enzymatic reactions and support gut bacteria. Excellent levels of calcium are needed to support the gut bacteria and the liver as it makes gastric juice and enzymes.
Food that provides nutrition against disease must facilitate a healthy digestion. The only foods that measure up to this standard on nutrition are top-quality produce and animal products from animals raised on top-quality feeds. These types of foods and animal feeds do not happen by chance. They can only be produced when the soil is correctly balanced and well supplied with nutrition. The obvious conclusion we come to is that human health starts in the soil.