How to Find the Healthiest Plant Foods at the Market

This is a guest post by Jenny Prince.

mineralRichAs a longtime vegan turned real foodist, incorporating meat and dairy back into my diet has been a mental struggle. I still cling pretty tightly to that idea that I can satisfy my nutritional needs without disturbing other living creatures. Beans, grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies are still my go-to daily fuel.

However, as a passionate food grower, I’m well aware that many plant foods just don’t stack up nutritionally. Not because they don’t have the potential to be healthy foods, but simply because they were raised without any real attention to their nutritional outcome. I say it’s high time we, as shoppers, figure out how to compare apples to apples, just so that we can always buy the healthier apple.

What if you had a sure-fire way to identify exactly which plant foods at market were the most nutrient-dense and mineral-rich?

No problem. I can totally help you do this.

Calling on all of my experiences as a lifelong gardener and organic soil analyst, I came up with an entirely simple way of finding these nutritional superstars – and it was inspired by pure, spooky fear. Like, horror movie-style.

My girl, proudly chomping on some spinal column

My girl, proudly chomping on some spinal column

My scary story, like all good scary stories, is based on real-life events. I didn’t have a close call with a disease or spend any time in the hospital, but it was definitely a nutritional nightmare.

For three years, I kept finding body parts.

My dog and I take a lot of long walks; we visit about 6 different trails within 40 minutes of home. Over the past few years, I‘ve started to notice bones hanging from the trees everywhere we go. Big, long animal bones, usually still connected (as in femur-kneecap-tibia). I was starting to get pretty creeped out.

Finally, I decided to consult some experts about these bones. Posting in a Real Foods Facebook forum, I asked my most outdoorsy friends:
bones
I figured one of these mountain-dwelling brewers, dairy farmers, scientists, chefs, or organic gardeners would know. And guess what? Seemed like everybody knew but me. Multiple replies confirmed this magical forest tradition:

Hunters return the bones of animals to the forest to decompose. They do this just to keep the soil system rich in minerals.

Why do they care about the soil system? Because they care deeply about plant foods.

Because hunters know that removing minerals (bones) from the forest puts the entire soil system in jeopardy, they also realize that it puts the deer population at risk. If the forest is not able to produce mineral-rich plant foods, then there won’t be any deer left to hunt.

The creepy truth is that:

Plant foods cannot sustain life unless they are mineral-rich.

Now you probably see why I got myself so worked up, huh?

So, what’s the easiest way for a health-minded shopper to source mineral-rich plant foods?

Find a veggie vendor at the farmers market who also sells eggs. Really.

Then you’ll know that your veggies were grown alongside chickens and their shells (remember: animal, vegetable, mineral!). If you can’t get to a farmers market, then ask someone at the health food store if they stock produce from any ‘diversified’ farms.

mineralRichPlantFood

Diversified farming incorporates animals and vegetables together, in efforts to keep a healthy soil system. Generally speaking, the vegetables grown on diversified farms alongisde animals are often richer in minerals than other options.

Have you found a good source of high quality vegetables in your area? What makes you feel good about buying your veggies there?

smJennyJenny Prince is a professional vegetable gardener and soil mineralizer,
as well as the author of Eat Like a Farm Girl: 3-Ingredient Plant-Based Recipes.
She shares her love for all things vegetable at jennygrows.com