Here we are. I have presented you with a glimpse of how our food system produces “food” and now you are probably wondering how you will ever be able to eat with a clear conscience ever again.
It's time for some good news. (finally, right?)
There are ways that you can provide yourself and your family with quality, nutrient-dense food without having to go buy a farm in the middle of the country.
(Yay! You don't have to move!)
I have compiled this list in an order that goes from “Most Do-able” to “I am a Nutrient-Ninja”. Here are a few of my suggestions based on my nutrient-rich food journey:
1)Eat Foods in Season
As simple as it sounds, this is the crux of all nutrient-dense food consumption. It is also very easy to do, even if you are buying food from a grocery store.
Eating food in season insures that you are eating foods appropriate for the weather (and sometimes climate) you are experiencing.
For example, eating a watermelon in summer will hydrate you, cool your body down in the heat and give you energy to keep going. But eating watermelon in the winter is unwise since the nutrient composition of watermelon is such that it will cool you off, and frankly you don't need your body to get colder in the winter.
Another benefit of eating in season is that a lot of super markets will stock locally grown foods, and plenty of them. Selling local foods is cheaper than importing out-of-season foods across the globe, and so you will likely get a good deal.
You are getting the maximum nutrient-bang for your buck!
2) Shop Locally Shopping for produce at your local co-op and farmers' market brings you another step closer to your food. Farmers market produce is always in season and FRESH.
The longer fruits and vegetables sit in shipping, the older the produce is and so the more nutrients they lose.
Often times, the farmer will have packed his produce for market the day before (as opposed to having it take a trip across the Atlantic Ocean). This means that by the time you get it, it is still alive!
Also, because farmers can harvest and sell quickly, food has time to ripen on the plant (as opposed to in a shipping container) so it tastes better.
(P.S.: Taste is a sign of nutrient-density, by the way. Minerals and vitamins are flavorful, and we naturally crave certain foods depending on what nutrients our body needs. So trust those taste-buds!)
Freshness is nutrient-retention.
Farmers markets are wonderful because buying directly from the farmer allows you to ask them about how they fertilize and grow their crops...and they are usually very happy to tell you! Most farmers are using organic (or beyond organic) methods of growing their foods, but are too small to afford the USDA certification. Because they don't pay for certification, they can sell their food cheaper than traditional organic produce from the store.
I have personally gone to farmer's markets, and then an hour later find myself driving to the farm (upon personal invitation by the farmer) to pick-my-own at a discounted price. This is always fun and a nice family outing as well!
Even the rooster is eating nutrient-dense food!
3) Source Your Own Meat
As Muslims, we are kind of a niche market when it comes to food, and in particular meat products. Add to that the desire to eat pasture-raised/grass-fed meats and you become a niche within a niche.
If you don't live in a big city, finding good quality + halaal meat can be very difficult.
Before we raised our own chickens, we would find chickens on craigslist, talk to the owners about their feed and living conditions and then purchase them and process them ourselves. You can always find people trying to get rid of extra roosters in their flock.
In order to provide beef for the family, we have developed connections with farmers and joined with other families to buy a share of a grass-fed cow. The tricky part with this is finding a Muslim from the community that knows how to slaughter and also finding a slaughter house that will allow you to hand-slaughter (liability issues). Deer coolers are great, but may only be equipped to handle smaller animals, so you may have to buy a smaller cow.
This past year we bought another freezer and are planning to purchase a whole cow for ourselves. The meat will last us an entire year,and we can benefit from the highly nutritious organ meats and the fat (which I render into tallow and use as cooking oil).
You get the whole cow, it is usually a lot cheaper than the store and you save money and time on trying to find beef later on!
4) Grow your own!
Growing your own food is a learning experience, but it is very rewarding and nourishing!
Start with potted herbs that you use in cooking, then move on to staples like tomato, cucumber and peppers.
Gain confidence and grow what you like!
You are in control of the fertility of what you plant, so use organic material and work with the earth.
Growing your own food is not a novelty; it is an essential life-skill that parents would teach their children as a part of surviving in the world. Generations would nourish the same small plot of land and that plot would nourish the family for generations. There was a very direct link between what you put in the soil and how it effected your progeny!
We must realize and appreciate that our bodies are from the earth and need to be properly nourished by it. Taking charge of our food has so many spiritual, ethical, environmental and health implications for ourselves and our children.
We must stop looking at food in simple terms of “calories” or “healthy” and “junk”.
Instead we should focus on nourishing, replenishing and strengthening ourselves and our families with real (nutrient-dense) food.
This post is dedicated to my beloved husband, without whom none of this would have been possible.
I never liked gardening. I like to joke that I have both a literal and figurative “brown-thumb”.
In fact, I distinctly remember groaning when my mother asked me to come plant some peppers in a container as a teenager.
But here I am as an adult, posting pictures of my 1/4th acre garden/orchard on the internet.
So, what happened?
I had 3 children in 5 years, breastfed (while pregnant) while eating fruit and veg that was organic.
Then I developed anxiety and panic attacks, my teeth started chipping, my daughter's teeth enamel started flaking off onto her tooth brush and eventually she had to go under general anesthesia at the age of 2 to get caps put over her teeth.
All the while, I was eating my organic everything in what I (and many patient friends of mine) would now call my self-righteous “healthier-than-thou” phase.
While trying to treat my anxiety and depression naturally, I came across the concept that malnutrition was the cause of most chronic disease. As I researched, I found out that many trace minerals and vitamins like ( B-vitamins and magnesium) would reduce and eventually eliminate my chronic anxiety and depression, and that these nutrients were supposed to be the most plentiful in the food supply.
I didn't understand.
I was eating ORGANIC fruits and vegetales..how could I be chronically nutrient-deficient?
My best friend told me about a man name Paul Gautschi who lives up in Washington state; he has a huge garden that he doesn't have to till, water or weed. There was a documentary film made about him and his gardening method, so I watched it and all the pieces started falling together.
In the documentary “Back to Eden”, Paul Gautschi talks about how the nutrient density of the food is completely dependent on the nutrient density in the soil. For the past 100 + years, there has een a systemic shift in how we produce our food. Food is no-longer grown for hardiness or in organically fertilized ways, and as a result our food has become less and less nutritious overtime. Even organically grown produce couldn't catch up because the organic matter in the soil (and even the top soil itself) has been lost after all these years.
This was my answer! I was eating as best as I could, but the vitamins and minerals weren't in the food in high enough quantities to replenish my body of what it had lost.
Paul Gautschi uses a heavy, deep-mulch method (which has come to be known as the “Back to Eden” method). By not tilling, and constantly adding organic matter (composted manure, straw, composted woodchips, grass clippings, etc) on top of his garden, Paul has been ale to grow HUGE fruit and vegetales that are full of water and taste amazing.
I wanted this, but at the time had no space to put a garden. We had just moved into the back of a heavily wooded subdivision with a ridiculously steep back yard.
However, we did have about .89 acres of land (half of which is heavily-wooded, steep and scorpion-infested!) and there was a spot on the side of our house that was pretty flat, but essentially a forest.
We decided we would try to have the trees cut to make room, and alhamdulilah we found a group of loggers that came and took away 9 (!!!) truck loads of timber wood from out property for free!
After that, we got several truckloads of free composted horse manure from the local fair-grounds to place over our tough Georgia clay. We paid some local landscapers to grind some of the stumps, then paid for someone to scrape and spread out the manure.
Setting up the beds
We were all in. We had to make this work now.
After the ground was prepared, we made our first beds, planted some potted plants and started the process of getting chickens to produce a constant supply of compost (and eggs, too!).
When you have a garden, you have to find a way to get as much stuff for free and make it pay itself off.
That was 3 years ago, and since then we have cut a few more trees, planted lots of fruit trees, cane fruits, grapes and the once balding plot looks lush and productive.
SuhanAllah, it is amazing how fast things grow.
Rows of Romaine Lettuce
Flowering Bush Beans
Chickens- an essential part of my homestead garden!
Every year, we learn more, the soil gets more fertile and the produce from it becomes, bigger, tastier and more nourishing.
I love the garden now. I will sometimes go do “work” in the garden just to relax and see the fruits of our labor.
My little ones are growing up knowing more about plants and herbs than I did 4 years ago. They pick and taste what grows as they explore. They get excited to see all the life that has flocked to our little clearing in the wood; the birds, butterflies, chipmunks and insects.
I planted a garden because I wanted more nourishing food for me and my family. It has far exceeded it's intended purpose.