Nutritional Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture Crops
Food production is responsible for over a third1 of all greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change. Although commercial farming can be damaging to the environment, it is essential for feeding a growing population, with 345 million people2 worldwide facing acute food insecurity daily. Regenerative agriculture could help farmers grow more nutritious and abundant crops without the harsh environmental side effects.
What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is a philosophy and farming approach that works in harmony with the natural environment, respecting the people, land, and ecosystems that make food production possible. Regenerative farming practices—such as rotational grazing, no-till farming, agroforestry, and growing cover crops—offer the following benefits:
- Add nutrients back into the earth to improve soil health.
- Capture and trap atmospheric carbon dioxide.
- Reduce water pollution through the rejection of chemical pesticides.
- Prevent soil erosion from overgrazing and monoculture.
- Boost microbial biodiversity that supports healthy bird and insect populations.
Studies Show Improved Soil Health Makes for Healthier Food Crops
A recent study3 found that crops grown through regenerative farming practices had a higher nutritional content than those grown through conventional commercial farming. The researchers made direct comparisons between crops from traditional farms and farms that used a soil-friendly approach for at least five years. They studied the farms in pairs. Each pair produced the same crop in the same region with similar climatic conditions and identical soil types.
The soil quality on regenerative farms was much higher than on conventional farms, containing more organic matter (carbon), microorganisms, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. These elements make for healthier soil that produces more nutritious crops with increased levels of micronutrients beneficial to human health.
8 Nutrients Found in Regenerative Crops and Their Health Benefits
- Phytochemicals are plant compounds with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic effects, which many studies conclude may help protect against cancer.
- Vitamin B1, B2, E, and K are essential for cell growth and regeneration, a healthy metabolism, cognitive functioning, and heart health.
- Calcium is crucial for building and maintaining bone density, preventing osteoporosis and other bone disorders, and regulating hormones and nutrients in the body.
- Phosphorous works alongside calcium to preserve kidney and urinary tract health and promote bone density. It also plays a role in metabolism and DNA formation.
- Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar levels and transport glucose into your muscles during exercise. It also boosts brain functionality and regulates your emotions and mood.
- Zinc is a trace element that binds with enzymes in your body to support metabolic functioning. It also promotes skin, eye, and heart health and boosts immunity.
- Omega-3 fatty acids support brain development, cognitive functioning, lower cholesterol, and protection against inflammatory diseases. Beef and pork fed with regenerative agriculture crops can contain two to eleven times4 more omega-3 than meat from animals bred on traditional feed.
- Less heavy metals (such as nickel and cadmium), which can be toxic in large quantities.
Regenerative agriculture has the potential to reduce and reverse some of the adverse environmental effects of commercial agriculture by improving soil, water, and air quality. Improving the soil quality can help farmers produce more nutritious crops that support human health, prevent malnutrition, and preserve food security.
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