Getting down and dirty with food

By Jessica Campbell, MS, FNTP

Did you know I almost named my business The Dirty Table? 

Super tongue-in-cheek I know, but I wanted to emphasize that healthy soil creates healthy food, which helps nourish and heal humans, animals, and the planet. 

And… I think eating healthy food is kind of sexy. 

Getting dirty is much more appealing when healthy soil is involved, don’t you think?  And these two things --soil health and gut health--are undeniably interconnected. I’ll explain how in this blog. 

How it started

I may be a dancer who likes to get fancy, but that has never kept me from getting  my hands in the dirt. 

I ate from the land until I became  a  vegetarian and started to replace the meat and butter I grew up on for highly processed soy milk and vegetable oils. I thought I was smarter than my parents, eating these new “health foods” but I started to gain weight, experience terrible cramps and PMS, then I felt depressed, and started getting migraines. I wasn’t a good vegetarian that knew how to replace my animal foods with high protein whole foods. No, I was more of a carbotarian eating pasta and cereal. Without the proteins and healthy fats my body needed, I suffered from acid reflux, inflammation, pain and I finally realized something was wrong when I was struggling with infertility.

It wasn’t until I was eating for someone else, a baby I wanted to have, that I realized I needed to change. The irony was that when I went back to eating the meat and butter I grew up with, I lost 10 pounds, I had never felt happier, and I got pregnant within one month. That was a powerful healing message from eating whole foods.

Since then I’ve learned how to eat foods that nourish my body and have brought me back to vibrant health. I don’t jump on the newest food trends like Paleo, Keto, or remove healthy options like Vegan or Carnivore diets. I choose to eat whole foods that are as natural as they can be, coming straight from the dirt, and I seek out farmers and ranchers that grow food in a sustainable and healthy way. This is what it means to be a regenetarian. 

When we eat like a regenetarian , we support regenerative agriculture practices that focus on making the topsoil healthier, cultivate a variety of plants and wild animals, use water more responsibly, and ultimately bring health and beauty back to the land. This will allow us to grow more plant foods in the future and support more healthy diets. If you want to learn more about it, I highly recommend you watch the film Kiss the Ground with one of my favorite ranchers, Doniga Markegard.

Back in 2013, I visited Polyface Farm in Virginia as a birthday gift to myself. I learned more about regenerative farming and met Joel Salatin, a luminary in the field. His books and speeches have inspired me and countless others to rethink how food should be grown to sustain our future. You may like to pick up one of his books. One of my favorites is Folks, This Ain’t Normal.

I’m a huge fan of farmers who use sustainable practices.

You may also like this article: How to be a Regenetarian by the Sacred Cow project. Diana Rodgers, RD wrote a book, produced, and directed a film by the same name, Sacred Cow. She advocates for sustainability and for all people to access nutrient dense animal sourced foods.

Perhaps one of the most well-known supporters of regenerative agricultural practices is functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, MD. Dr. Hyman supports a plant-forward diet with small amounts of sustainably sourced animal protein. He says we should avoid factory farmed animals and argues that regenerative agricultural practices are best for the planet in terms of carbon emissions, working conditions, and biodiversity. I agree!

What is plant-forward? 

Through the years I’ve become a regenetarian who supports a plant-forward way of eating. I love plant foods in every meal, but I don’t need to omit healthy animal proteins. I get to eat them both. 😋

As a holistic functional nutritionist, I often recommend a plant-forward diet, one that emphasizes and celebrates minimally processed plant-based foods, but doesn’t exclude entire food groups like red meat, pork, eggs, fruit, dairy or grains. I honor individual preferences, which is why I customize every diet for every client.

A healthy body needs a healthy gut. A healthy gut needs lots of fiber from plant sources but that doesn’t mean that non-plant sources aren’t healthy as well. Put more positively, when it comes to your health, the quality of foods is far more important than the exclusion of entire food groups. 

What's the gut got to do with it?

The human gut bacteria known as your microbiome are critical for your overall health. They live on the fiber that reaches the large intestine, highly indigestible fibers that make it all the way to the end of the chute. That's only seen in complex carbohydrates like beans, whole fruit, vegetables, and whole grains like quinoa. This kind of fiber is not in processed grains like whole grain bread or oat milk.

Research shows that we have more microbial cells and genes than human cells, according to The Good Gut authors Justin Sonnenberg, PhD, Stanford Professor in the Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology and Erica Sonnenberg, PhD. Emphasizing a diet rich in fiber and plant-based foods can lead to a healthier and more diverse gut microbiome.

So we need the vegetables, but there is ample evidence that we need the proteins and healthy fats too. Opting for high-quality whole foods opens up the opportunity to consume a diverse array of nutrients, leading to various health benefits for our gut, immune system, cardiovascular health, mental well-being, and overall physical condition.

Bottom line

Embracing regenerative farming is not just a trend but a transformative approach to nourishing our bodies and healing our soil. By choosing nutrient-rich, seasonal foods, we can improve our health and well-being. Supporting local farmers and regenerative ranchers allows us to contribute to the restoration of the land and build a more sustainable future for generations to come. I want my kids to have healthy foods too!

If you would like help navigating the most holistic practices that are scientifically proven to be safe for you, allow me to create a customized plan considering your unique needs, the lifestyle you want to live, and the food that creates the foundation of your good health.

Book a free 15-minute consultation here