Food Awareness — part1

Shankar Venkataraman
5 min readDec 8, 2020
Scanning electron microscope picture of gut microbes from probiotic food

Just like “seasonal awareness” of when to eat what food during various seasons in a year, “food awareness” is also a lost art for most human beings. Today the market abounds with advertisements about “uncontaminated” food. Sadly due to the COVID crisis, people think that everything must be uncontaminated. Food companies exploit this to the fullest by saying we are giving you uncontaminated food. Soils are supposedly contaminated and no human touches your food etc are the confusing messages sent to you.

Modern agriculture systems (such as hydroponics and large scale chemical agriculture) and Industrial food are trying to take over our traditional food and essentially are helping us end our “food awareness” completely because we want to believe what is marketed to us and we are ready to be brainwashed and do not want to remember what our grandparents knew as healthy food.

The old model that we understand is human beings need to be fed nutrients. The correct model that needs to be understood well is that we are an element in a complex ecosystem and we need to interact with our air, water, and soil through our food more than anything else. The human body has 50–70 trillion cells. This is outnumbered completely by bacterial cells in our body, leave alone fungi and viruses in our body.

The majority of the food we eat is absorbed and processed by the microbiome in our small and large intestines. See the picture below.

Schematic representation of the role of the gut microbiota in health and disease giving some examples of inputs and outputs. CVD=cardiovascular disease; IPA=indolepropionic acid; LPS=lipopolysaccharide; SCFA=short chain fatty acids; TMAO=trimethylamine N-oxide

The key messages from the article link below (pdf file) are,

  • Gut microbiota influences many areas of human health from innate immunity to appetite and energy metabolism
  • Targeting the gut microbiome, with probiotics or dietary fiber, benefits human health and could potentially reduce obesity
  • Drugs, food ingredients, antibiotics, and pesticides could all have adverse effects on the gut microbiota
  • Microbiota should be considered a key aspect in nutrition; the medical community should adapt their education and public health messages
  • Fiber consumption is associated with beneficial effects in several contexts

What you may want to think about are the following.

Food must be fresh from the soil and soil grown. The deep connection between soil bacterial and gut bacteria are well known and scientifically proven. The food must transport the benefits of soil health to our body.
Nutritional integrity is directly connected to soil health.

So-called uncontaminated food sprayed with toxic antibacterial antiviral chemicals directly affect and destroy our gut bacteria and skin bacteria which defend and protect us from any attack of pathogens (foreign bacteria, virus, and fungi, etc.).

Food grown in water or artificial media like cocopeat etc. has no microbial interaction with plant root systems. The microbial interaction with plant root systems helps with the building of higher-order compounds called secondary metabolites in plants. The compounds that correlate with flavor and aroma for us are a result of direct interaction between soil microbes and plant root systems. If you have eaten a tomato without taste or flavor (watery taste noticed in hydroponic tomatoes), it means the absence of those higher-order compounds made in plants also as a defense mechanism against insects and diseases.

How can a hydroponic factory that takes one week to build replace healthy soil that takes years to build? No way at all.

The factory model of growing food in a protected environment such as a hydroponic factory essentially prevents plants from developing defense mechanisms in natural environments they grow in soil-based farms. Without defense mechanisms in plants, the food you eat will not have polyphenols and anti-oxidants. I have confirmed this data from my interactions with Mr. Dan Kittredge, Founder and Executive Director of the Bionutrient association.

As quoted by Dan, “The Bionutrient Food Association suggests that the objective of growing crops should be to produce nutrition that will cause people to thrive, and there is no way to do that without understanding that the soil is the foundation of that process.”

“Dan has been an organic farmer for more than 30 years, and is the founder and executive director of the Bionutrient Food Association, an 8-year old non-profit educational organization whose mission is to “increase quality in the food supply”. Known as one of the leading proponents of “nutrient density”, Dan has worked to demonstrate the connections between plant health, soil health, carbon sequestration, crop nutritional value, flavor, and human health. Out of these efforts was born the Real Food Campaign, which has engineered the prototype of a hand-held consumer spectrometer that is designed to test nutrient density at the point of purchase, thereby empowering the consumer to choose for nutrient quality. Via this tool, the deeper goal is to connect the economic incentives of consumers to growers to drive full system regeneration.”

The role of one such higher-order compound found in plants called “polyphenols” is shown below. Also, check out the reference PDF file further below.

Polyphenols are secondary metabolites of plants and are generally involved in defense against ultraviolet radiation or aggression by pathogens. In the last decade, there has been much interest in the potential health benefits of dietary plant polyphenols as antioxidants.

Polyphenols are found in plant‐based foods and beverages, notably apples, berries, citrus fruit, plums, broccoli, cocoa, tea and coffee, and many others. There is substantial epidemiological evidence that a diet high in polyphenol‐rich fruit, vegetables, cocoa, and beverages protects against developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The absorption and metabolism of these compounds have been well described and, for many, the gut microbiota plays a critical role in absorption; taking into consideration the parent compound and the metabolites from colon bacteria catabolism, more than 80% of a dose can be absorbed and ultimately excreted in the urine. Common polyphenols in the diet are flavanols (cocoa, tea, apples, broad beans), flavanones (hesperidin in citrus fruit), hydroxycinnamates (coffee, many fruits), flavonols (quercetin in onions, apples, and tea), and anthocyanins (berries). Many intervention studies, mechanistic in vitro data, and epidemiological studies support a role for polyphenols against the development of chronic diseases. For example, flavanols decrease endothelial dysfunction, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and modulate energy metabolism. Coffee and tea both reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, through the action of their constituent polyphenols. Despite extensive research, the exact mechanisms of action of polyphenols in the human body have not been decisively proven, but there is strong evidence that some targets such as nitric oxide metabolism, carbohydrate digestion, and oxidative enzymes are important for health benefits. Consumption of polyphenols as healthy dietary components is consistent with the advice to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day, but it is currently difficult to recommend what ‘doses’ of specific polyphenols should be consumed to derive maximum benefit.

Thank you.

Shankar @bhoomifarmers @mapletreefarms



Shankar Venkataraman

Farmer, author, farming teacher, public speaker. Areas of Agriculture and technology in Agriculture.