Simon’s Simples: Basic Nutrition

What Your Body Needs

To stay healthy we need to avoid the toxins that are increasing everywhere in our culture. This means getting pure sources of food, water, air and energy, which can be a challenge just in itself. Exercise is essential to maintain strength and flexibility but we also need a complex yet balanced mixture of specific minerals and nutrients (and no toxins) to maintain ourselves in a healthy way. As I have said, human beings are far more than ‘walking sacks of chemicals’, but this is a good place to start exploring the more scientific aspects of healing with food.

On a regular basis the human body requires:

  • pure water
  • 90 nutrients
  • 60 minerals
  • 16 vitamins
  • 12 essential amino acids
  • 3 essential fatty acids
  • fibre
  • essential glyconutrients / carbohydrates
  • antioxidants

A significant amount of the body weight is made of water, from (on average) 75% of the weight of babies to around 57% of the weight of adults. Access to pure water is an issue of increasing importance in the 21st century as we have pretty much polluted all of our ground waters with chemicals of one sort or another, and are increasingly toxifying our oceans.

Overall 96.2% of human body weight comes from organic elements present in many different forms.  DNA, RNA proteins, lipids and sugars are all composed of primarily oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen.  Also, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as other small molecules involve the above elements in roughly these proportions.

Oxygen (65.0%)                     Hydrogen (9.5%)

Carbon (18.5%)                      Nitrogen (3.2%)

3.9% of body weight comes from elements present in the form of salts. Although these are comparatively small amounts, they are very important maintaining a well-balanced organism.

For example:

  • calcium is a major component of bones and teeth
  • iron is necessary for oxygen transport by red blood cells
  • sulphur is present in most proteins
  • potassium keeps your heart beating smoothly and regularly

Salts as a percentage of body weight:

  • Calcium (1.5%)
  • Phosphorus (1.0%)
  • Potassium (0.4%)
  • Sulphur (0.3%)

0.5% of total body weight is made of trace elements that again are essential for homeostasis.  Some of these trace elements work with critical enzymes in the body.

Chlorine                        Chromium                    Cobalt

Copper                        Fluorine                       Iodine

Also found in trace amounts are: Lithium, Strontium, Aluminium, Silicon, Lead, Vanadium, Arsenic and Bromine in addition to some of the man-made chemicals taking up permanent residence in our bodies.

When the human body lacks certain of these trace elements, for example selenium, a non-communicable disease can creep in. A study made in 1996 by Dr. Larry Clark of the University of Arizona demonstrated the power of Selenium alone against cancer.

A group of 1300 elderly people were given 200 micrograms of selenium once a day for seven years. Overall the occurrence of cancer was reduced by 42% and cancer deaths by nearly 50% compared to the control group on placebos. Prostrate cancer occurred 69% less frequently, colorectal cancer 64% and lung cancer 39% less.

We are certainly in danger if we lack some essential natural element or enzyme in our bodies. Selenium is a good example of this, but to identify all degenerative disease as wholly the result of missing minerals is too simple. There is a larger pattern of failing health emerging as essential minerals are going missing from our food. Cancer rated were 1 in 5 people when I was young but are now nearly half of all people.

Modern industrial farming practices destroy the symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi found surrounding the roots of organic and wild plants. This soil dweller helps to increase the nutrient absorbing area of the plant’s root system by secreting enzymes that break down organic matter and help the plant absorb more nutrients. Mycorrhizal fungi are wiped out by soluble phosphates in particular, a prime ingredient of many chemical fertilisers and this prevents the absorption of minor nutrients into the plant.

Examples of these nutrients include: calcium, sodium, iron, copper, selenium, molybdenum, potassium and zinc. Studies show there are many people deficient in these minerals.

The intensification of agricultural practices has led to a decline of between 25% to 75% in the levels of key mineral nutrients in farmed vegetables over the last 60 years.

Vitamins too have disappeared from much of our industrially produced food. The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) of vitamins are often published on food packaging. These are rough guides, as individual needs for these vitamins vary. People with certain diseases might need more, or less, of certain vitamins and trace elements and pharmaceutical medicines can also alter how a vitamin works.

Different groups of people may need higher amounts of certain vitamins, for example:

  • children (vitamin D)
  • pregnant women (folic acid)
  • older people (vitamin D)
  • smokers (vitamin C)
  • people who consume a lot of alcohol (thiamine)
  • vegetarians and vegans (vitamin B12)

RDA amounts vary between countries and are often updated, so please check locally for your RDA amounts. Recent government policy in Britain and the US recommends we should eat a minimum of five or six fruit and vegetable types in any given day for our RDA’s.

The British Dietetic Association’s survey shows that the average British diet includes only 3.3 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The Scottish consume 2.7 portions a day while the Irish get only a measly 2.3. This research disregards not only the quality and authenticity of the food but also the method of preparation. Research from Spain suggests that the quality of food and its method of preparation are as important as the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten. This is because nutrients in food are often destroyed during industrial preparation and even in domestic cooking processes.

Even if we can source quality food with its nutrients still intact, cooking it often destroys the useful content. Studies show that fresh, uncooked vegetables strengthen the immune system and increase resistance to many diseases. For example tests in Spain measured the levels of flavonoids left in fresh broccoli after it was cooked. The results show large differences in flavonoid content according to how the broccoli was prepared.

  • boiling – 66% loss
  • pressure-cooking – 53% loss of major antioxidant
  • steaming – minimal loss of antioxidants
  • microwaving – 97% loss of flavonoids

Scientists in Finland found that blanching and deep-freezing vegetables also destroyed beneficial compounds.

Far from using the fantastic potentials of food to maintain health, our cultures have turned it into something dangerous. Poor growing and storing and unhealthy cooking practices leave many of our meals with dangerously low levels of nutrition. When plastic packaging is added and a ‘ready meal’ is microwaved, we consume something that is far from nutritious and may actually be harmful.

unhealthy evolution