Help Yourself

Before alleviating injuries and prolonged neglect with herbal remedies, an even more fundamental step is giving our bodies their best fighting chance by supplying them with all the resources they need. Following the general rules prescribed by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is important, but if people are like plants, then something akin to Liebig's Law of the Minimum also pertains. The Law of the Minimum states that the overall health of a plant is limited by scarcity of the nutrient(s) that it most lacks.

The Dietary Guidelines tells us which nutrients tend toward deficiency in American diets. These include potassium, dietary fiber, choline, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, D, E, and C. Two others, iron and folate, are important for women. Limiting the amount of meat in one's diet makes access to these nutrients even more challenging, but I believe that the crops and poultry I raise now or in the near future on a relatively small area will be sufficient to satisfy all of my nutritional demands. Here's how I hope to get my victuals:

  • Calcium (for nerve transmission and cardiovascular system) - dark leafy greens
  • Potassium (prevent bone loss) - potatoes (sweet or regular), beet greens, white beans
  • Fiber (lower heart disease risk) - beans
  • Choline (prevent muscle & liver damage) - eggs
  • Magnesium (regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation; essential for energy) - green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, potatoes
  • Vitamin A (eyes, skin, immune system) - darkly colored orange or green vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and kale; and orange fruits such as cantaloupe and peaches
  • Vitamin C (wound healing, brain function) - strawberries, kiwipeppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and spinach
  • Vitamin D (strong bones) - sun-dried shiitake mushrooms, other mushrooms, eggs
  • Vitamin E (antioxidant) - nuts, green leafy vegetables
Photo by Olearys

For staples, calorie dense crops like grain corn, peanuts, cabbage and winter squash will also be important. The only thing to add is watermelon, which is also a staple (since it is 95% water). At this point, lacking nut and egg production, I will continue to rely on purchased products to satisfy some of these requirements, but dietary self-sufficiency appears to be coming into reach. 

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