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permaculture and diet

Posts: 73
Location: Portugal
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Ben B wrote:

permaguy wrote:
My concern is that veganism is not suitable for everyone because it rely on conversion from simple forms to more complicated one, and not all people is genetically apt to do this.

So, vegans may be short on the following nutrition requierments, if their body can convert precursors :

* Vitamin A from betacarotene (source)

All humans are pretty bad at absorbing beta-carotene. On our best day, we can only absorb about half of the beta-carotenes we eat. Sometimes it can be as little as 10%. Beta-carotene conversion into retinol is actually highly dependent on one's blood levels of vitamin A. Someone like myself who eats tons of beta-carotene rich foods will have a much lower conversion rate into retinol than someone who is retinol deficient. In other words, your body tightly regulates the amount of beta-carotene absorbed based on how much you need.  However, if I ate retinol rich foods like liver and eggs, my body would be FORCED to absorbed the retinol even though I don't need it. Our digestive tracts our not set-up to regulate retinol since our fruit-eating ancestors didn't eat much of it. Even more interestingly, animals who we know are meat-eaters have enzymes that break down retinol if they get too much. If an animal has this ability it's actually one of the indicators that they are a meat-eater. If they don't have this ability, it almost always means they are herbivoires. Guess what? We don't have that enzyme!

The study you posted may show that some people are much better at converting beta carotene into retinol, it in no way shows that they have someway adapted to animal nutrition.  I think it is important to realize that whether or not we have the particular gene that makes us better than average at making the conversion, it is virtually impossible to become vitamin A deficient by eating a fruit and vegetable based diet.

permaguy wrote:
* Long chain omega-3 from short chain omega-3 (source)

The story is quite similar here. MANY factors come into play when we are talking about converting ALA into EPA and DHA. Your source covers one important one which is the omega-6 level. If you are eating too much omega-6 fats found in animal foods, oils, and nuts and seeds, you won't be able to convert much ALA into higher chain fats. Once that omega-6 level is dropped and a diet that is sufficient in ALA is undertaken, high chain omega 3s will rise to appropriate levels. Unfortunately your study only tests this theory for about 40 days. I wouldn't imagine that would cause very much difference in reversing a lifelong diet of high-omega 6s. Would you?

Some reasons why I think it's a better idea to lower our omega-6, rather than increase omega-3 intake:
If we look at our ancestral diets, we know for a fact that we had an omega-3:omega-6 ratio of about 1:1. What we fail to have pointed out to us, is that not only was this a 1:1 ratio, but the total amount of omega-3 and omega-6 consumed on a daily basis was only around 2 grams of each. How much do we consume now?
Our omega-3 fat content has remained around 1.5 - 2.0 grams per day, but our omega-6 intake has literally rocketed up to over 20 grams a day!
Even our recommended intakes for these fats makes no sense at all:

Notice, the recommendation is to have 1.6 grams of omega-3 and 17 grams of omega-6! This just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

In addition, several other factors come into play such as total amount of fat, the source of the ALA, the amount of animal foods present alongside the ALA, the antioxidant status that protects the ALA as it is converted. So no one can say with certainty that they need to eat fish or grass-fed meats or eggs to get their long-chain fatty acids because they probably haven't even tried eating in the way that would lower their omega-6 levels. Moreover, when people choose to eat these animal foods, they often cook them which completely oxidizes the very volatile omega-3 fats in them.

permaguy wrote:
And animals products is also an interesting source of vitamin D in winter, and of vit B12  (sun dried mushrooms are a good source of vit D2, but i'm not sure it is an  effective source of vit D contrary to vit D3)

Our main source of vitamin D should be the sun. Originating from the tropics, humans would have been exposed to direct sunlight almost every day of the year allowing us to maintain optimal vitamin D levels. As humans moved away from the equator where cold dark winters drastically lowered our vitamin D levels, we needed to resort to animals to provide it for us it. Unfortunately we don't get nearly enough vitamin D from animals as we could from the sun. One egg might give you 50 units assuming you don't cook it of course. Going outside for a 15 minute walk will give you upwards of 10,000 units which is the amounts we actually need to be in optimal health. 200 egg omelette anyone?

B12 is a nutrient produced by bacteria, not animals. There are trillions of bacteria in our digestive tracts and even more in each breath of air we breathe. Many different types of these bacteria produces B12 that our bodies can use. I should say COULD use, if we had enough of the good bacteria in our GI tracts. There is a substance called intrinsic factor produced by the parietal cells in the stomach that is what ushers the B12 into our blood stream. If we have gut flora imbalance, intrinsic factor can't work. If we eat too many grains, intrinsic factor can't work. If we become stressed or overly acidic, intrinsic factor can't work. These things are independent of whether or not we eat steak or rabbit food. There are PLENTY of meat-eating people out there who are B12 deficient and just as many vegans who have levels that are perfectly fine.

Thats all very interesting. In my experience vegans always seem to look healthier than the general population, and they live longer. I am not sure whether it is the optimum diet or not. But it is clearly alot better than what is the norm in the west !

I have never heard of vitamin A deficiencies, nor problems with omega oils in vegan diets. Vegans seem to do well by simply having a broad diet within the vegan options.

Certainly in the Uk the only people with vit D deficiencies are those with dark skins who cover up their skin with clothes excessively for religious reasons.

I bet most of the meat eaters on this forum, in reality rely on meat produced with GM soya and cereals grown in monocultures.
Mother Tree
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Location: Portugal
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Mark Harris wrote:
Certainly in the Uk the only people with vit D deficiencies are those with dark skins who cover up their skin with clothes excessively for religious reasons.

That may be the case these days, but my husband says that it was a common disease when he was growing up in the UK many many moons ago, and I personally knew two children, both sons of friends of mine, who had it. That was about twenty years ago, though. Neither had dark skin or covered up for religious reasons. One followed a macrobiotic diet based on home-grown vegetables and animal products - we always suspected that there was a genetic problem with him as his father had vague recollections of something similar happening to him when he was very young, though his family would never confirm his suspicions. The other followed a diet based on pure poverty. Both recovered completely. Of course, I was in Wales, which is not exactly the sunniest place on Earth.
Mark Harris
Posts: 73
Location: Portugal
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Yes from what I have read you need only 15 minutes of sunshine a day on average to get your requirements of vit D. I guess many decades ago when rickets was common amongst white Uk people it certainly wasn't the result of a vegan diet.

Interestingly by law all Uk margarines must contain added vit D and this from what I have read is vit D2 (vegetable based), not D3 that you might get from animal products.
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Kay Baxter is running a series of posts at the Oz PRI website on designing for health (in an urban setting) with a focus on nutrition.
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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in reading thru these threads I do feel that if you were to summarize what everyone is saying a lot of it depends on where you live and the weather. Here we had such a strange spring that we lost every single bud on every tree crop that had bloomed by June 1. All the apples, cherries, pears, peaches, plums, necatines, etc..and all the nut crops froze. If we were in the paleo days that would have meant a big deal for the survival of the people and the animals. We nearly lost all the berry and grape crops to later frosts but it only dropped to 34 degrees, so all but the blueberries are still with us. Thus our fruit crops will be only the small fruits that didn't freeze. Even alot of the in ground perennials won't be bearing, but then it seems those that perfer the cold wet weathers are doing fine.

This weather will effect which animals survive..those that eat mostly greens and leaves and roots will probably do ok, but the ones that survive mostly on fruits will struggle.

Fortunately we were able to put up some extra fruits the year before and we do have a small stockpile of nuts..but it will be a lean year for those products unless we buy offland.

This however has been a really good year for fish, the water levels are high right now (although we have had a few short periods of drought and fire)..and there is a lot of food for fish and mosquitos and flies for birds.

It seems some wildlife is abounding right now, so there is plenty of meat available, but for how long when fall comes around and there is no fruit for them to eat?

I believe that there were times like this before towns and shipped food where people really had difficult times, like the famines where people ate mostly potatoes..this could be one of those years if shipping food had to halt.

I believe people have to adjust their ways of eating according to the weather in their areas, if they are to be eating most of their meals off of their own land. I know we do here. I am also planting more and more varities of plants that produce foods I have never eaten before on our property, and have found some interesting things. The Giant Breda Medlar that I planted only a few weeks ago has blossoms on it now and it may produce a couple of fruits this year..I've never had them before, but if they are good I may plant more of them, as it bloomed so late (might be cause it was planted late).

Also I discovered that the trees that were in the shade did not have as much frost damage as the ones in the sun, so I also will be making more shade structures (lattice or whatever) to shade the fruit trees from the morning sun to try to save some of the fruit buds for those frosty years.

I know that the discussion is more about other people and in other places, but I'm more concerned about what I can do to improve food production here at home and the varied nutrition that we need. I have also raised the water level (by increasing the depth at the dam) of our pond this year and am looking at stocking it with a protein fish species or two. At this time there are deer, bear, rabbits, possum beaver, muskrat, porcupine, racoon, squirrel and other animals that can be hunted on our property regularly as well as a number of wild game birds. As long as you grow plenty of food for the wild animals they will come, at least here in Michigan, so there is no worry about proteins, but sure wish we were going to have a fruit and nut crop this year.

Also the thing that hit me in the discussion was peanuts (which I have never tried to grow here) and also beans, whick I"m planting more of this year and should plant much more of in the future. They are also good sources of proteins.

Have to think alternatives to fruit right now so I'm thinking of putting up a LOT of rhubarb as it is one of the few FRUITY things that is growing well here, as are the berries and we'll have a good grape the freezer will be full of those types of things for overwintering to make up for the loss of tree fruits. When nature gives you a loss, you gotta think what to plant to replace those nutrients so you have enough food for the winter.
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The information is very interesting. It is new knowledge for me.

Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Great work Brian,

Where are you based?

I am starting similar to you. Focusing now more with grains, the pseudograins, roots and legumes.

So far my diet is mostly grain-based, no meat, ocasional fish. That's the sort of diet my body wants, diet is a very personal thing, other people have other needs.

I calculated also to require around 0.5 acre to fully sustain myself. But that only at latitude 40, where it's easier to grow near 100% of a mostly vegetarian diet. Further north, as where I am, animals are a much more efficient way to go.

No matter where we are, eating a very varied plant-based diet ensures more easily we get all necessary nutrients. And if we also eat some animal products in addition to plants, then I think we would be pretty much safe nutrient-wise.

Brian Bales wrote:I'm currently building my food forest and garden/pasture system with the ideal of producing 95% of the food I need for myself and family. I live on 1.5 acres of land but the bulk of this project is taking up only about .5 of the 1.5 acres. Its been a tricky process but I am beginning to see results. I have planted most of the trees in my food forest and most of them are established (I lost several last year that I need to replace due to gophers). There is an established pecan tree on my land already but in addition to that I have planted almonds and pistachios. I'm working on planting bush fruits, herbs, beneficial and insectiary plants now as well as edible ground covers like strawberry, ground plum and purslane.

I've been doing a great deal of research on perennial vegetables and have found some great additions. I just got some cutting of tree kale/collards. I have high hopes for this plant. Supposedly 100 square feet will produce around 300lbs of food a year. I also have artichokes, asparagus and rhubarb planted. I am going to be trying seakale this spring too. The ground plum is an interesting legume that I hope will prove a useful ground cover and food plant. I also will be planting sorrel, nettle, good king henry and purslane to name a few.

As to cereals I am planting them too, some are going in a rotation system of animal paddocks and cereal beds others will be planted in the open spaces in my orchard. I have several cereal crops to test. Once I can evaluate their suitability to growing here. Then I will streamline my selections to just a few. I'm testing wheat (Sonora, spelt and kamut), millet, sorghum, flax, quinoa, amaranth, chia, barley, buckwheat, flint corn and a few other oddities like rocky mtn bee plant. Some like quinoa, amaranth and chia are especially important to me because of their high nutritional content and their use as both grains and green vegetables.

I am including animals in my projects. I currently keep nigerian dwarf dairy goats, pilgrim geese and guinea fowl. I intend to add chickens and turkeys to my collection. I also plan to have a couple bee hives. Eventually I plan to build a greenhouse and keep an aquaponic system where I can raise channel catfish and maybe tilapia or carp.

One of the biggest challenges has been working out a system where all the money I save on growing my own food doesn't go down my animals throats instead. A big part of that is keeping numbers minimal. I feed them conventional foods like alfalfa and grains but I am working away from that. One of the most important feed sources I've been looking into is tree crops. My animals love poplar trees and I have a lot of them growing on my property so I've had success supplementing some of their feed with poplar. I'm also planting polyculture hedges with the intention of using them as animal feed. I'm planting a mix of acacia, honey locust, rosa rugosa, black mulberry, sawtooth oak and a few other misc items like elderberry, wild plum and hazelnut. All things useful to me and to the animals. Never underestimate the usefullness of the edges

Posts: 1981
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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pebble Hatfield wrote:I notice when reading about permaculture there is a large focus on plants that produce fruit. Also vegetables. I'm curious about this because from a nutritional point of view fruit and veges are important but they don't supply the crucial fats and proteins, or even the amount of carbohydrates that most people need (that's a gross generalisation from the climate I live in - maritime temperate).

Just wondering how much people think about what they eat in relationship to permaculture.

I do, and I look for my food choices, so that I can grow it!
Fruits and vegetables are the easiest...
and more expensive to buy.

Many green leaves (nettle, amaranth...) have proteins.
Nuts are crucial as it has been said.
Chia, flax, canola from the cabage family can be grown, also sunflower and many.
oil is more difficult to process...

Critters are included in permaculture, and hens are a first choice!

Pulses are not so difficult, cereals are.
Try to eat your own corn, ok...
Try to eat your own wheat or sunflower!

Then, the food choice is very difficult, and needs to be thought about.
And never heard about it as a topic in any permaculture course...
Well, as this is personal... but how to "design" the path to get to the solution is definitely an important topic!
Designing includes reading the land, taking into account water, climate, distance from the house and so on,
...but never heard how to take your food choices into account.

A few things are obvious and not to be mentioned.
If no-one likes tomatoes in the family, then do not grow it.
Vegans do not have chicks.

Grains is for me the sensitive and important topic.
Also the choice of juicing/raw food.
It will change the quantity of what you grow.
Xisca Nicolas
Posts: 1981
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Well, yes it has to do with climate...
and on what we CAN eat or not, I believe!
Well, because there are thing I cannot eat....

So, I explain how I think about what I am going to grow...
including climate for sure, but other facts.

There could be a system like zones!
Quantity zone:
"zone 1" is what you need more.
"zone 5" is what you need less, extras, does't mind if fails etc.
Very subtle and subject to one's subjectivity... and guts!

Then a process zone:
"zone 1" is what is easy to process
"zone 5" is what needs big equipment!
More universal, but different according to the amount you will process.
Depend on grid / off grid, DIY ability etc.
Also includes easiness to stock.

Wheat is in my zone 5 quantity zone, as I eat gluten free.
I could have it for hens.
BUT, in what process zone is it?
Can I find a grain I can give to hens and easier to harvest, process and keep?
Is there an easy grain I can eat as well as hens will?
Then I might grow quinoa and forget about wheat.
I can grow potatoes, but cereals bring carbon for the soil, potatoes do not.
Yes, but I have wild prickly pears, and the opuntia give the same amount of carbon with 3 times less water.

So, in "diet", I would include the land diet and not only ours! All that produces extra carbon for the land is great, and nitrogen also, such as having hens, and green manure.

I go on with the way I think
Example with oil:

There is the choice between eating all and extracting oil.
My main oils are coconut and olive.
I have none and I cannot grow coconut.
So I need to plant olive trees.
But I need to wait, as I have to chose the variety, and I cannot rely on shops to have adapted varieties.
My problem has to do with climate's, I am a little "weak" about chilling hours! (do not have enough...)

What is usually taken into account is the time before the first harvest.
Ok, olive, if you can get it, will make you wait.

I eat all the avocado, all almond, all chia and sunflower.
But the process zone of sunflower is bad!
Can it fill the gap while I harvest no olive?
If you think in term of diet choice, sunflower is very bad because it is too rich in omega 6,
and that will make you unbalanced regarding omega 3.

Now, sunflower is good for bees, is nice, makes sticks for climbers...
It has also great proteins, it has minerals etc.

So, how do I think about it...
It is no good for making oil, but good for eating whole.
I can look for a shelling machine, I heard it exists.
I don't know if it worth while for a small production.

Then, I got other ideas:
It can be sprouted unshelled, but also shelled! The little seedling is then eaten.
Great, it changes the process zone of sunflower seed and matched some nutrients needs for superfood.
And it can be given whole to hens.

So, I drop the idea of sunflower seed oil, I keep the idea of eating it whole, and I must inquire about a way to shell it, to expand its use.
I do use grounded flower of sunflower, with an electric coffee grinder.

BUT, I gave a try to sunflower here (the giant mammoth one).
The same problem 2 years in a row, though this year was dry (little to say: we had a terrible drought)
The seeds are full of mold before I harvest.
I also have a lot of empty shells, because bees are not enough.

So, I consider trying other varieties, and having little bees less susceptible to diseases, as they are more resistant.
i will sow early, to harvest maximum beginning of September.
As I keep buying sunflower seeds, this means I must go on trying.

So, I think, as everyone will make personal choices, that we can discuss how to think about matching permaculture and diet, and what sort of thinking paths and questions we can follow.
Xisca Nicolas
Posts: 1981
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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And I am interested in your own process of thinking about matching permaculture with your diet.
He was giving me directions and I was powerless to resist. I cannot resist this tiny ad:
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