Return to Vibrant Health

23: Power Packed Phytonutrients! With Dr. Allen Williams - global leader in Regenerative Agriculture.

January 09, 2023 Susan Spell
23: Power Packed Phytonutrients! With Dr. Allen Williams - global leader in Regenerative Agriculture.
Return to Vibrant Health
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Return to Vibrant Health
23: Power Packed Phytonutrients! With Dr. Allen Williams - global leader in Regenerative Agriculture.
Jan 09, 2023
Susan Spell

PHYTONUTRIENTS! What are they? Why are they important? Where can I find them? Today I welcome back Dr. Allen Williams, global leader in Regenerative Agriculture, to discuss phytonutrients - the micronutrients in plants that help our human bodies ward off inflammation, oxidative stress, and other harmful "stuff". Think about a bright red strawberry, orange carrot, the deep purple of beets, the white flesh of onions . . . you get the idea! These colors tell us something about their benefits, but so does their taste. AND, there's a way to measure them in your own kitchen too. So cool!

Dr. Williams ALSO shines a light on HOW they were grown. Anything grown in healthy and bio-diverse soil (aka, "regeneratively") ensures those nutrients are there in abundance (vs commodity grown crops that continue to decline in the richness of their nutrients).

We also get into growing your own food and befriending your local farmers. Why not stop by the Farmer's Market in your area next Saturday? Or any day they're open. 

You're going to LOVE this episode and will come away with a whole new appreciation for the phrase "eat a rainbow"! And don't forget to check Understanding Ag's website throughout this year and next, as their phytonutrient research findings will be published there. 

Here are some resources we discussed (and a few we didn't, but are helpful):
Notes & extensive resource list from our first episode together can be found at
Understanding Ag
Understanding Ag's educational arm, Soil Health Academy
Shop Regen Foods

ARTICLES by Dr. Williams (& others at Understanding Ag):
How does your garden grow? Helpful tips for growing it regeneratively is HERE
The most radical act you can do: Grow your own food! is HERE
Grass fed vs conventionally fed beef is HERE
A case for local ag is HERE
Can food be our medicine? is HERE
Regenerating human health & building a more resilient food system: Calls to action among farmers, consumers, and healthcare practitioners is HERE

Food Revolution Network

Anything else you want to hear about? Let me know! Send me DM on social. I genuinely want to provide (and translate) all kinds of great info for you.

You can find me:

Do you have high blood pressure? If so, grab my FREEBIE - how to accurately take your BP at home.

As always, thanks to Lemon Music Studio for intro and outro music.

Show Notes Transcript

PHYTONUTRIENTS! What are they? Why are they important? Where can I find them? Today I welcome back Dr. Allen Williams, global leader in Regenerative Agriculture, to discuss phytonutrients - the micronutrients in plants that help our human bodies ward off inflammation, oxidative stress, and other harmful "stuff". Think about a bright red strawberry, orange carrot, the deep purple of beets, the white flesh of onions . . . you get the idea! These colors tell us something about their benefits, but so does their taste. AND, there's a way to measure them in your own kitchen too. So cool!

Dr. Williams ALSO shines a light on HOW they were grown. Anything grown in healthy and bio-diverse soil (aka, "regeneratively") ensures those nutrients are there in abundance (vs commodity grown crops that continue to decline in the richness of their nutrients).

We also get into growing your own food and befriending your local farmers. Why not stop by the Farmer's Market in your area next Saturday? Or any day they're open. 

You're going to LOVE this episode and will come away with a whole new appreciation for the phrase "eat a rainbow"! And don't forget to check Understanding Ag's website throughout this year and next, as their phytonutrient research findings will be published there. 

Here are some resources we discussed (and a few we didn't, but are helpful):
Notes & extensive resource list from our first episode together can be found at
Understanding Ag
Understanding Ag's educational arm, Soil Health Academy
Shop Regen Foods

ARTICLES by Dr. Williams (& others at Understanding Ag):
How does your garden grow? Helpful tips for growing it regeneratively is HERE
The most radical act you can do: Grow your own food! is HERE
Grass fed vs conventionally fed beef is HERE
A case for local ag is HERE
Can food be our medicine? is HERE
Regenerating human health & building a more resilient food system: Calls to action among farmers, consumers, and healthcare practitioners is HERE

Food Revolution Network

Anything else you want to hear about? Let me know! Send me DM on social. I genuinely want to provide (and translate) all kinds of great info for you.

You can find me:

Do you have high blood pressure? If so, grab my FREEBIE - how to accurately take your BP at home.

As always, thanks to Lemon Music Studio for intro and outro music.

Power Packed Phytonutrients – with Dr. Allen Williams

[00:00:00] Susie: Welcome back to the Return to Vibrant Health podcast. Today I welcome Dr. Alan Williams back to the show. His first appearance was in December, 2022. It's episode 19. You can go to my health coaching website. If you wanna find all the details about that particular episode, it's, and a lot of great links on that page as well.

So, we discussed the tenants of regenerative agriculture, how soil health is intimately connected with human health on that episode, so it's a really, really great one to go back to. But today we are gonna talk about phytonutrients. During our last conversation we talked about that, and today we're gonna explore that concept a little bit more.

 I'm gonna go ahead and do the introduction for him again. So anyone who doesn't know Dr. Williams can get a, a real sense for him. He is a sixth generation family farmer. He's a recovering academic and a pioneer of early regenerative ag practices. He and his colleagues are committed to improving farming practices that restore the quality of life for farmers and ranchers that grow our food, improving their revenue streams, and all of that resulting in better health of humans and planet.

Dr. Williams holds bachelor's and master's degrees in animal science from Clemson University in his home state of South Carolina, as well as a PhD in livestock genetics from LSU. He himself farms in Mississippi and Alabama. And he's a founding partner of Grass-Fed Insights, as well as Understanding Ag and their nonprofit educational arm called the Soil Health Academy.

He's consulted thousands of farmers and ranchers in the US and abroad on operations, ranging from just a few acres to over a million. He's authored numerous papers of our 400 scientific and popular press articles. He's a speaker at local, regional, national, and international conferences and meetings.

He's been featured in numerous films and videos including the Carbon Nation's Soil Carbon Cowboys, the Dr. Oz Show, ABC Food Forecast News, Kiss the Ground, a Regenerative Secret, the Farmer's Footprint, which is where I saw him initially, and The Sacred Cow. And he is also co-authored the book called Before You Have a Cow.

You can find many of his presentations and webinars on YouTube, which I did. But today, like I said, we're gonna talk about phytonutrients and just to backpedal for one second, all those things that I just mentioned, all those videos, webinars, websites, they are all actually linked up in that podcast 19 that I just mentioned.

So today we're gonna talk about phytonutrients, which are compounds found in plants. They're like the magic that's inside. And I really am very excited about this because, as a medical provider interested in human health and how we can optimize it and even reverse disease, I think this is a really, really important topic.

So thank you Dr. Williams for being here again. I really, really appreciate it. 

[00:02:59] Dr. Williams: Well, it's a pleasure to be here. Looking forward to our conversation today. 

[00:03:02] Susie: So do you wanna just start with what is a phytonutrient and maybe why we should care? 

[00:03:09] Dr. Williams: Yeah. So phytonutrients, yeah. I think everybody understands probably what a, what we might call a primary nutrient is those are the things that are listed on the back of most food products on that typical nutritional panel.

And I, and I say that almost you know, derisively in a way because the nutritional panel, as we call it, on the backs of food products, are so misleading. And so just the, the amount of information that we get from those is very, very insufficient to be able to truly understand what we need in our, in our everyday diet.

So the primary nutrients are things like crude protein and fats and sugars and, you know, carbohydrates. Again, all of those things that are listed on a typical nutritional panel. However, The phytonutrients that we're talking about, they're often also referred to as secondary and tertiary nutrients.

You know, in the primary nutrients, there's really only a handful of those that we ever take a look at. But with these phytonutrients or these secondary and tertiary nutrients, there are literally thousands of those. And this is where the real health happens. Okay? We're not healthy because we eat a certain amount of protein or not, or carbs are not, or fats are not every day.

 Our health comes from these other several thousand phytonutrients that are vitally, vitally important to our bodies. And these phytonutrients contain the, the, the bulk of the medicinal compounds that we actually need in, in our everyday diet. And, and they include things like fatty acids. There's broad classifications like tecos and polyphenols and alkaloids and things like that, that make up these whole array of phytonutrients.

And when we look at medicine through the centuries and, and even through the millennia, that's what the pharmacists of old and the physicians of old looked at. They had this knowledge of the phytonutrient content in many different plant species. And, any pharmacist that was worth their weight at all, you know, in years past they had to take a lot of botany courses, right? Because they had to be able to identify plants that contained these phytonutrient arrays. That was what they were after to get the medicinal qualities. 

And in clinical trials that have been conducted by Dr. Stefan van Fleet and a number of other medical researchers, they have found that as we include these phytonutrients in our daily diets, it radically alters what is happening in our bodies, especially related to inflammation. And as you know, and most of your listeners know, practically every disease and disorder known to us as humankind always starts as some type of inflammation. 

[00:06:39] Susie: Mm-hmm, yes. This seriously important thing that I think a lot of people don't know . But I loved what you said about the doctors of old, you know, thousands of years ago that that was all they had, right? So they had to be very connected to nature and those different properties. I was just listening to something that was talking about how herbalist in particular have you know, their pulse on how these medicinal components of plants are important and how they work together synergistically in our, in our bodies to create health.

So I think it's time we resurface some of that and explore it. So again, so glad you're here to talk about this. You mentioned some categories. What direction do you wanna go first? What do you think people should know first about phytonutrients other than what you just told us? Should we talk about any specific ones? Should we talk about any specific properties? What's your thought? 

[00:07:36] Dr. Williams: Here's what I think I. You know, the categories for most people, the names are big . Right? Right. And, and most people may have never even heard the names of many of these categories. And if you say 'em, they don't immediately relate to 'em cuz like. okay, what in the heck is a polyphenol Right, or right or a tocopherol or whatever. What, what are you talking about? And, so they don't really understand that part. And that's okay. You, you don't need to.

The more important thing here is to understand what are the benefits that are derived for us, you know, from these, how, how do we benefit from this phytonutrient profile in having far greater phytonutrient richness in our foods?

And then secondly how do we effectively get these phytonutrients back into our foods. Right, right. That's, that's what I think we really want to concentrate on, because I think that's what most people want to know. Right. You know, what do they do for me and how in the world do I get it?

[00:08:40] Susie: Yes. Let's do that. , let's talk about that. What are some benefits or what have you done? Because you mentioned some research you guys have done with soil and that kind of thing. Can you talk about that? 

[00:08:52] Dr. Williams: Yeah, so I, that's a great place to start. Most nutritional research that is done out there is frankly very, very limited. If you go into the, the literature of peer reviewed articles relative to nutritional research, and you start looking at the materials and methods. What did they actually do? What you find is that they just went and sourced certain food stuffs that were already, you know an edible food stuff already harvested or, you know, whatever. And then just did an analysis on that. And the majority of the nutritional analysis has only been looking at the primary nutrients, you know, so now we're back to the crude proteins, the carbs, the fats, the vitamins, things like that. And Most do not delve any deeper than that. So they just go out and, and source the foods and then they just do a lab analysis, boom, end of story and report that. And they may sometimes add a human clinical trial to that. And again, that's the extent of it. 

This is radically different. And what makes this so different is the fact that we are starting in our data collection and analysis with the foundation from which all foods come. And what is that? That's soil. Right? 

[00:10:31] Susie: Right, right. 

[00:10:32] Dr. Williams: So everything is grown in our soils, and if it's an animal protein, they're going to eat what was grown in those soils. So with this research, we're, we're starting with the foundation, with the origin of our foods. So we are collecting soil samples directly from the farms and ranches that we're doing this research with.


Never been done before in human nutritional research. And we are looking at, you know, the phytonutrients in the soil. We're looking at the biological life in the soil, and then we're coming and we're looking at the diversity of that life in the soil. Then we look at the plants that are growing there and we monitor and measure the diversity of the plant species that are growing there. 

So if we're ultimately looking at, say, an animal protein product like meat or milk or eggs, something like that, then they're going to eat plants, right? Mm-hmm. . And so we're, we're measuring those plants that they're eating. How diverse is the array of plants that they're eating from? And what is the phytonutrient content in those plants that they are eating? So we're looking at the foundational soil, then we're looking at the actual plants. 

Now, if, if it's a direct crop that we eat blueberries, grains, you know, tomatoes, whatever the case may be, then we're still collecting plants. And measuring the phytonutrient content in the plants that are gonna produce the end food product, the blueberry, the wheat, the barley, the tomato, And then if it's animal protein, we are actually measuring their fecal matter, the fresh fecal matter as they go through their lifespan before they're harvested. So what is showing up from a phytonutrient standpoint, in their fecal matter on a day in, day out basis? Okay. Mm-hmm. . And then finally, we're measuring the actual end product. So the beef, the pork, the eggs, or again, the blueberry, the wheat, or the tomato. So we're taking it literally from the ground up.

Very, very few researchers have ever done that, and that's what makes this so incredibly unique because we're not only looking at the end result, but what caused that end result. And the difference is that we're seeing, we now have the data to be able to definitively determine that. And that is part of what I'm gonna share today that is so impactful and so mind boggling.

 It, it truly is transformative. And, and so then the final step there. So again, measuring soil, measuring plants, measuring the fecal matter, measuring the end product, and then finally doing human clinical trials. So, eating the normal foods, what I'll call today, commodity foods versus, eating these phytonutrient rich foods.

And what those preliminary clinical trials have been showing is that in just as few as six weeks of transitioning your diet from phytonutrient poor to phytonutrient rich, we are seeing significant reduction in interleukin levels. You know, and interleukins are highly indicative of inflammation in the body. So in other words, inflammation in the body is declining very rapidly in just six weeks with transitioning to a phytonutrient rich diet, we are seeing a significant improvement in red blood cell function in the body, and a significant improvement in omega-3 to omega-6 levels in the body and other favorable fatty acids. So there's a whole host of very positive things that are changing in just that first six week period of altering that diet. So that's hugely encouraging as well. And we'll continue to follow through with this. 

So that's how the research is being done. It's called metabolomic analysis. And that's a big word to mean that we now have a way, we have analytical methods in, in a lab to be able to parse apart and distinguish 2000 plus different phytonutrient spectrum. 

[00:15:35] Susie: Mm-hmm. . Yes. So that, that is a lot. I'll be looking at some of that research that, that's very interesting. I wanna say a couple things, maybe a question. So for anyone who, who didn't pick up on it, phyto means plant source, so it's from the plant. So even if an animal eats it, we're talking about the nutrients that came from the plant that the animal ate. Right. But correct. The other thing you said you know, first of all, the human body has such an amazing ability to heal. People don't realize that, I don't think. But when you give it to all of the right kind of nutrients and support that it needs, and really how we lived for thousands of years, then we heal and we prevent disease. So risk of disease goes down and if you have something you can turn the car around, right?

But. Something you talked about. Is that the, the end product? How do we know? So this is the thing, as a nurse practitioner, a lot of people when whenever I'm in the functional medicine clinic in particular draws a lot of people interested in targeting root cause. And so many times people say, shouldn't I take a supplement? Because the nutrients in our food are just so poor. So I don't, I'm not sure I should have queried them. Like, where did you hear that? How did you hear that? How do they know that? And how, you know, I think there is validity to that, right?

I read a book by another researcher in Texas who was talking about, they sampled food or plants from different places around the country and found vastly different nutrient content, but those were probably conventional type growing operations maybe not regenerative, so it would be really interesting to see the difference between the nutrient profiles of crops grown conventionally versus crops grown in a much more regenerative way. Any thoughts about that? 

[00:17:32] Dr. Williams: Yeah, absolutely. And that, that's certainly one of the things that we're looking at, right? So we are making direct comparisons between foods that are grown very conventionally to foods that are grown on regenerative farms that are implementing the principles and rules that we talked about in the last podcast. And there is a distinct difference. And the truth is it's a far greater magnitude than probably even we that are doing regenerative. Imagine that it would be, we knew there would be a difference, but even we did not know that the magnitude of that difference would be as great as it is. 

And so, in a nutshell, here's what we're finding and then, then if we want to dive a little deeper, we can. But if, if those soils have far greater microbiological activity and better microbiological diversity. And if the plant species growing in the soil are much more diverse rather than monocultures and low diversity systems, which all of our conventional systems are right, then, that those two things are the key.

So if we have far better biologically active soil and far greater plant species diversity, that seems to be the two things that combine to produce this incredible phytonutrient richness in our foods. So if you don't have those two things, it, it's become super apparent now. If we don't have those two things, we are not going to have phytonutrient rich foods. It's just not going to happen. It cannot happen. And 

[00:19:31] Susie: right, and there's the word diversity again, which we talked about quite a bit the last time. And in the interim beginning of November, I actually went to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine Conference and there was a speaker on gut health and he said he himself had heard from another physician five years ago how that the number one thing for human health is the diversity of plants you eat no matter what kind of diet you wanna say you eat, whether it's vegan or omnivore, whatever you want. I mean, maybe the exception is carnivore, right? Cuz they're not eating any plants, , but you know, any of the others, the key is the diversity of plants that you eat. Mm-hmm. , so again, diversity both for the soil, the plants, and for our bodies. Super important. 

[00:20:16] Dr. Williams: Yeah. And, and, and let's take that one step further. Okay. So that's correct. And diversity matters, but if I'm eating a lot of different plants in my daily diet, but all of those individual plants were grown as a monoculture conventionally. That's better than not eating diversity. But it is nowhere near as good as eating far greater diversity from plants that were grown in a diverse regenerative system.

Yes. So the same items that I may be selecting to eat for my daily diversity if they are grown in diversity themselves rather than as a monoculture on a regenerative farm. Their phytonutrient profile is gonna be even greater than that. So our health status from eating that diversity is gonna be more improved.

[00:21:16] Susie: Yeah. And so then it comes down to, and I don't know if we're right to shift to this or not, but like, how do we get that? So I commented the last time that sometimes it feels hard as a consumer to identify if something is grown regeneratively or not. I, I myself have a plant predominant diet, but I live with people who are omnivores so I'm always looking to use a spectrum, like if I were to buy conventional ground beef, right. Because you know, I have people in my family that eat that. I looked at all the different ground beefs that are in my, my Publix, you know, which is the store I shop at. And there was one, which you probably know it from White Oak Farms that said, regenerative, no other package says regenerative. There's so many other words. Or if I go just to the produce section, there's the organic, but I don't know if that's regenerative. So how do we find the products or how do we at least, what do we choose to get a vast array, that diversity and then to up level it to say regenerative? 

[00:22:21] Dr. Williams: Yeah. That is such a good question. And actually that's something that we are working very hard on right now. There is a, a dearth of information that's available to the consumer. I'll readily admit that. And, and it can be confusing to the consumer at this point in time. Now, what I will say is that, you know, organic foods. It doesn't mean at all that they're phytonutrient rich. Now, if, if you want to, you know, be free of chemical, synthetics, things like that, then yes, eat organic. But unfortunately, way too many of our organic foods that are in our grocery stores and restaurants today were produced very conventionally. As far as the agricultural system. There was a lot of tillage. They were monoculture. And so they can't have any more phytonutrients than the conventionally commodity grown foods, you know, they just can't mm-hmm. Yes, they're, they're free of the chemicals, but, but they're not phytonutrient rich.

That's one thing we have to recognize and realize that even organic also needs to be produced regeneratively and in a much more diverse system to have this phytonutrient richness. Now what we're working on, to be able to help, first and foremost, you know? Yes, as a consumer, do your own research and find, you know, the old saying know, your farmer. Right. Find farmers in your area, in your region that are doing this and buy from them, you know, at least some of your food. Buy from them. It matters even if, even if you're not buying all of your food from them. Whatever you can eat that has greater phytonutrient richness is going to make a difference in your daily diet.

But the other thing that we're working on is we launched a a, a company called Regenified. And the whole purpose of Regenified is to be able to, first of all, verify that farmers and ranchers are truly producing regeneratively, and that it's not just a term that's being used and thrown on a package. So we want to verify that it's legitimate, it's transparent, and it's true so that the consumer can have a very high level of confidence in that. Mm-hmm. . So that, that's first and foremost. 

But the second thing with Regenified is being able to build a base of foods that the consumer can access, not just directly from a farmer, but from grocery stores, from restaurants and others so that they, whenever they see the Regenified seal they can have a high level of confidence that these foods are phytonutrient rich.

So we, we've gotta have efforts like that to be able to do the verification, the third party verification, and create that assurance for the consumer that the foods that they are purchasing were truly regeneratively produced in phytonutrient rich. Now, what I can share with you also is that, fortunately there are a lot of food companies now that if I name their names, everybody would know who I'm talking about. But that have become very interested in regeneratively produced foods and they want to make a genuine effort in this regard. And so they are now also working with Regenified to be able to, to get this, you know, verification and then the label into the stores and into the restaurants, right? Are, yeah.

[00:26:08] Susie: Is that label being used now or not yet? . 

[00:26:11] Dr. Williams: This is a very new program. There are a handful that have, that have been verified. And then there's quite a few that are in the process of verification right now in terms of branded food programs and that type of thing.

And for anybody that's interested, they can go on the Regenified website at And as more and more food companies and programs and farms and so forth are verified, they will be listed on the website. So consumers can have a sort of a one stop shop to go to, to find out who's been producing regeneratively.

[00:26:51] Susie: Right. That's great. And I do have that link in the first podcast episode and I'll link it again for this one. Yeah, that's, that's great to look for and in the meantime, so talking to people in your community I think is a really great way, cuz local's great too, right? I mean, so. 

[00:27:06] Dr. Williams: It it is, and the other thing that they can do, and I think we probably mentioned this in the last podcast, but you know, it doesn't take a lot of us as consumers talking to our, the managers and our grocery stores talking to, you know, the owners of the restaurants and so forth to make a difference. Yes. The average grocery store, if just six to eight people ask about the same item or same thing. They will make a change in what they're doing. 

[00:27:39] Susie: So I have to get my friends on board. We can go to Publix, . 

[00:27:42] Dr. Williams: Exactly. Exactly. So, so tell them and ask them, how do I know what foods in your store were produced regeneratively or not? And when you go to a restaurant, ask them the same question. How do I know whether these foods were regeneratively produced? Now, initially you're gonna get a lot of blank stares, you know? Yes. I don't know what you're talking about. But the more we ask, the more they're gonna say, okay, people are asking, there must be something to this. We better check this out. 

[00:28:17] Susie: Mm-hmm. . Exactly. So there we do have more power than we think we have as consumers. Right. 

[00:28:23] Dr. Williams: That's, we really do, and, and again, as I said, it doesn't take, you know, a huge percentage of us. Right. Right. I mean, just a very small 5% of consumers asking about food products can radically alter what is available to us. 

[00:28:43] Susie: Right. I want to ask you about how we know that we're getting phytonutrients. And I have, I do have one comment, but, so in the meantime, before we can look for the Regenified label, we're gonna have to have some tools in our toolbox to try to at least move in that direction. And one of the things I think is the concept of eating a rainbow because it's those colors in when we're talking plant foods, it's the colors in the plant foods that are giving us some indication about some of the phytonutrients in the plant.

[00:29:16] Dr. Williams: That that is correct. So the brighter or the darker, the colors that's indicative that we do have a little higher phytonutrient profile in those food products.

The flavor profile also tells us that. So the, the deeper, richer and more complex, I, I also refer to it a lot of times as robustness of the flavor profile matters. So when we eat, whether it's a vegetable a fruit a protein or whatever, when we eat these products and they have sort of a bland flavor in and of themselves without, and, and here's the key. Sample it before you season it all up. Okay. Because once you do that, once you season it or marinate it, or you make a sauce and pour it over it. You've just masked the phytonutrient flavor profile, so sample them in their original state, and that will tell you a ton about the phytonutrient richness.

And I promise you, even the average consumer, if they sample side by side, they can absolutely tell the difference, right? And, and, and it, it's very much a contrast. You'll say, wow. Versus, hmm, right? Mm-hmm. . Yes. So that's another way to know. 

Another way is You know consumers can purchase a refractometer. And you can just google those on the internet or whatever, but but a refractometer, and it's just an instrument. You can buy 'em for anywhere from about 80 to $120 a piece. it's a very wise purchase. They'll last you your lifetime. But a refractometer measures the amount of dissolved solids in, in the, the sap or juice of any food. And those dissolved solids contain a lot of phytonutrients. So. What you want to do. For instance, let's say you go get lettuce or a cucumber or tomato or blueberries or whatever from the grocery store, and when you get 'em home, you can squeeze the juice out of them and onto your refractometer, hold that refractometer up to the light and look at the, what we call the brix, B-R-I-X, the brix measurement. And again, that brix measurement is a measurement of nutrient density right then and there in that food. And so the higher the brix, the more nutrient dense that food is. 

My youngest son, when he was back in middle school and high school, he actually won, multiple years in a row, the science fairs doing brix measurements.

[00:32:03] Susie: Interesting. 

[00:32:03] Dr. Williams: And what was interesting here is he would go to grocery stores and, and buy, just commodity fruits and vegetables out of the produce section. And then we would take 'em, because we, we have regenerative gardens that we are growing. And so then he would go collect the same food items out of the regenerative garden and measure the brix.

And there was a radical difference in the grocery store. It almost didn't matter what you purchased, no matter what kind of fruit or vegetable, the average brix was coming in somewhere between 3% and 8% and that was it. But when you measured those grown regeneratively, they would jump all the way up to 18, to 20 to 25, 28%.


And then when you tasted them, so you measured the brix and then when you tasted them and, and we even did, one of the things we did was sort of blind taste trials, so people had no idea which was which and what the brix level was or anything and just had 'em taste them and rate them. They discerned that difference just like the refractometer did. 

[00:33:13] Susie: Mm-hmm. Mm. Interesting. Mm-hmm. . Yeah, I bet you can taste it. I mean, and the food is beautiful too, when you really take a minute to be mindful, you know, and really, really look at that. So, I, I have a little question based on what you said, cuz you said we have some regenerative gardens.

I'm guessing that people. , you know, I live in the postage stamp neighborhood like I mentioned before. Mm-hmm. , or even if you live an apartment, like you could have something little small, little regenerative, your own little garden. It doesn't have to be mm-hmm. acres and acres, right? Mm-hmm. , I mean, you can grow a few peppers or tomatoes or carrots or something like that, right. Just yourself, you know, nourishing the plants. 

[00:33:55] Dr. Williams: Yeah. It's actually amazing how much food you can grow in a very small space. If you have a very small backyard or, or you're in an apartment or whatever, then, even just tubs, you know mm-hmm. you, you can grow a lot of food in tubs or you can make raised beds. Grow a lot of food there and the key is to stay away from all the synthetics and the chemicals and everything else that are gonna harm the biology and the soil. And then, and, and we've got articles and things about this on our website at where people can go and read about, you want diversity in your garden as well.

So you don't want just sheer monoculture in what you're growing, even in your tubs or in your raised beds. You want diversity. And so we have articles that walk people through this and talk about what types of diversity and, and we call it companion planting and things like that. And there's different species of plants we can combine together that help ward off the pest insects and fungal plant disease and all of that so that we then don't need the chemicals and so forth that we think we need.

[00:35:07] Susie: Right. And is that some of what's taught in the Soil Health Academies? The different places that you have around the us?

 absolutely. This is core to what we teach. So, you know, it really doesn't matter whether you're a gardener or whether you're a row crop farmer or, or what you may be growing, you know nut crops, whatever or how small or how big a farmer you are, these principles that are taught in the Soil Health Academy apply equally well across all of that. So whether I've got a very small raised bed garden, or whether I'm growing thousands and thousands of acres of crops, these principles apply regardless. 

[00:35:50] Susie: Okay. I'm gonna try and find some of the articles you have on there, and hopefully send my daughter, maybe the whole family to one of the Soil Health Academies.

[00:35:59] Dr. Williams: That will be great. 

[00:36:00] Susie: It would be so fun. I do have a question, which is kind of random, but there's this interest in water towers, like to grow lettuce and different things. There's a big place near me that has the water towers and I remember just even when I first heard about that, not to bash them, I really don't know anything about them, I just thought, but that seems weird to not grow it in the soil. Like it seems like something about the earth and I didn't even know all the stuff I know now. Something about the earth just seems like it's right to grow in versus a water tower cuz then you have to add the different things and hopefully the right combination that nature intended. What are your thoughts about that? Do you know anything about them? 

[00:36:38] Dr. Williams: Yes, and I can speak directly to that. So first of all, when you grow things void of soil, it is impossible to be able to have the same phytonutrient profile in those foods. Mm-hmm. . Right. You cannot do it. You know, and there's a reason we have soil . There's a reason that all of our foods came from soil for thousands and thousands of years.

 Can we get things to grow in just water with fertigation? Yes. But they are far less nutrient dense and they're gonna be lacking. And we have the research to prove it. There's just no doubt about this. And even if you do a simple plant brix, they're gonna brix a lot lower than those that are grown in soil.

So it, it's actually, and, and I'm a scientist myself, you know, I spent many years as a research scientist at the university and I'm just gonna state it like it is. It's human arrogance and hubris to think that we can somehow come up with some kind of fertigation concoction, you know, fertilizer. Mm-hmm. that we're feeding the plant everything that it needs. No, no, we cannot. We are not smart enough to do that. And really, The people that are, the scientists that are doing that, coming up with those fertilizer concoctions are only looking at the principle, the primary nutrients. They are not looking at the thousands of phytonutrients because they can't, and they can never combine all of that into a fertilizer in the right proportions. Right. It's just not even possible. Yeah. 

[00:38:26] Susie: Yep. Thank you for mentioning that or commenting on that. So I would like to see what your thoughts are, if you have any, any thoughts or commentary or insight about certain kinds of phytonutrients? Like, for example, there's two that come to my mind right off the bat. One is resveratrol, which mm-hmm. , you know, there for a while we said that people, we, or there was news out that we should be drinking at least one glass of red wine a night for our health. Now, it's come out that like, especially in cancer prevention, we probably don't wanna be drinking any, no alcohol's great, but if you're gonna drink it on occasion, okay, pick some red wine so you get some resveratrol, but you could also eat the grapes, right? So like the whole food because you're gonna get more benefit from the whole food than you will from the glass of wine, even though it's kind of fun and social , you know, which might be okay on occasion, right?

[00:39:29] Dr. Williams: Yeah. So, so that's absolutely correct. Don't drink the red wine for that reason, to get enough of that phytonutrient, you are going to have to over-indulge , you know? Right. And then, like you said, you've got all of the other problems. So eat the grapes, you know, dark skin colored grapes.

Right. That's what you need to be going after. And, and that matters, but yet, then what matters even more. How were those grapes grown? Mm-hmm. , were they grown conventionally or regeneratively? So even the amount of that particular phytonutrient in those grapes, whether they're, you know, dark-skinned grapes or not.

Mm-hmm. it, it doesn't matter until we get to the regeneratively grown, that's where, you know, now we can, instead of having to eat a hundred grapes a day, right now we can eat a handful and get the same amount of phytonutrient richness that that's what we want. It's still gotta be reasonable in the amount that we consume every day.

[00:40:38] Susie: Mm-hmm. Yep. And you know, another one that comes to my mind a little bit is quercetin. You know, I mm-hmm. I'm also a student of all this information myself, especially with the whole pandemic. I've seen a lot of people using quercetin because it's a powerful antioxidant, which a lot of phytonutrients are antioxidants. Right. Which helps us with oxidative stress and inflammation and all of that. But I know a little bit about quercetin, but not a lot. Do you know anything about quercetin in particular? 

[00:41:07] Dr. Williams: Well, it, it is, like you said, it's a very, very powerful antioxidant. It also has some antiviral properties to it you know, mm-hmm. and it, it is very beneficial relative to the cellular physiology in our bodies. Mm-hmm. So it, it helps to regulate cellular physiology and those types of things. So, you know, it, it's like the beautiful thing about almost all of these phytonutrients as individual phytonutrients is that, they all have a multiplicity of functions mm-hmm and benefits mm-hmm. In our bodies. Mm-hmm. You know, it, it's not just, okay, we need this for this one thing and this for this other one thing. They all cover a multiplicity of health benefits. Mm-hmm. And, and so the real key here is when we start to try to isolate and say that, okay, I need to take this supplement, that supplement, this other supplement, then we often place our own cells in a position where we are creating imbalances.

Yes. In our bodies by taking these monoculture supplements, it. Yeah. We are doing monoculture to ourselves. Right, right. In supplementation. Right. And so by far the best way to get all of these phytonutrients, you know, we want the whole array, right? That's where we're gonna be the healthiest mm-hmm lifetime. Mm-hmm. , we want the whole array. And so the very best way to do that is actually our supplements are from the foods we eat every day and not all the pills, that, that we swallow . Right. I've seen people spending thousands of dollars. Oh, absolutely. I mean, well, let's look at it. In the last three decades, the human supplement business has become a multi, multi-billion dollar a year business.

But yet, if we're just simply eating phytonutrient rich foods, none of that matters anymore. And actually you don't want the supplements because then they start to interfere and impede with our health. 

[00:43:20] Susie: I I feel like it's a paradigm shift for for medical providers or people in the health professions and also for everybody else. Right. You know, it's that, that shifting that mindset a little bit.

[00:43:33] Dr. Williams: But here's another very important thing about that. Now we're often told, if you want this vitamin or mineral, or you want this phytonutrient, you've gotta eat this specific food. Yes. Eat a blueberry if you want this. Eat a right red grape if you want this, and so forth, right? Or eat a leafy green if you want this. Well, here's the beauty of phytonutrient rich foods. All of these phytonutrients are in every one of these foods. Right. Eating proteins. Okay. Right. So in our beef and our eggs and our milk and our cheese and, and our chicken and so forth, because they're eating the phytonutrient rich plant, so same phytonutrients are in their protein tissue and in their fat. So it, it becomes much simpler now. Every food I eat, I don't have to try to focus on mixing and matching my foods anymore. Mm-hmm. . Okay. Right. Every food I eat now has sufficient phytonutrient richness. Mm-hmm. and I am getting that benefit. So it makes our dietary choices so much easier.

[00:44:54] Susie: Right, right. And I think key to that too is choosing a diverse array of things. Some people I see get stuck on one thing or one kind of dinner or one breakfast and so I, I do believe that having a variety across days or throughout the day is also important. And, you know, you just take one day at a time and add something, try something new and and see how it goes. 

[00:45:18] Dr. Williams: Well, everybody should eat a minimum of at least six different, truly different foods every day. truly different and, and much more than that if at all possible. But I, I, I 100% concur with you. the diversity of what you eat every day is important. Look it, it's even more enjoyable, right? 

[00:45:41] Susie: Right. Right. Exactly. And one of the, the things I'm going to explore one of these days is how to really increase mine and help other people to really increase the use of spices and herbs. Mm-hmm. to get some of those phytonutrients. I think of it like a spectrum or like, I'm moving in this direction. I'm going to      add more spices and herbs. I'm going see which ones I like, I'll do the taste test or the brix. I think that would be interesting. And then how the flavors play together and how you can use them for good in your body and mm-hmm.  how you can choose ones that are regeneratively grown. Eventually, as that becomes more and more popular. But you know, even something like people want to take turmeric, right? Which the active thing that they're trying to get really is a curcumin, and it's much more bioavailable when you mix it with black pepper. So just knowing those little nuances or little combinations where you can get synergistic effect, and you can get that if you're having a variety.

[00:46:40] Dr. Williams: Absolutely. And, and another really good example of that is, there's a lot of women, especially that are iron deficient. Mm-hmm. and you know, men can be too, but, but, you know, the data shows that oftentimes is more women than men that are iron deficient. And so leafy green vegetables, you know, spinach and things like that are rich in iron. But the problem is, is that if you eat those alone, that iron is not readily absorbable. So technically you're eating a lot of iron, but you're not absorbing a lot of iron. Right. But if you eat that with, you know, phytonutrient, rich red meats by you know, grass fed beef and things like that then that iron from the leafy greens is much more absorbable. It piggybacks on the iron from the mm-hmm. from the beef. And, and so yes, there, there's a whole array of examples like that, that that's why it does matter. You know, when we eat a far richer array at every meal. And, and the other thing about that is we don't have to eat a lot of any of those individual food items at every meal.

We just need to eat some, but have greater diversity. And, you know, one of the things, and we talked about this a little bit in the last podcast, but when I was growing up, you know, on the family farm, 80 plus percent of everything that we ate, we grew and raised, , and we grew and raised a variety, so, Frankly, I can't remember any meals growing up where we didn't have at least six to eight different food items on the table at all times to select from.

[00:48:21] Susie: Right, right. I was just talking to my auntie who's in her mid eighties and my, my granddad was a dairy farmer in New Jersey and she said everything we ate came out of our garden. I was asking her a little bit about what life was like on the farm because my own mom is passed now but, so she was telling me some things and she said, we just ate what we grew. And I was like, I talked about how we had talked but you know, it's just different now. Farmers mm-hmm. may not be eating their own food, right? I mean, they're going to the grocery store like everybody else.

[00:48:53] Dr. Williams: We even point this out to the farmers themselves, and we ask them, you know, because most farmers have a sense of pride. We're feeding the world. And so when I hear, and again, I'm a farmer myself, but when I hear a farmer say that I almost can't help myself, I, I immediately ask them, okay, so you're feeding the world. What are you eating off of your farm? And they look at me like, what? And I said, when your family sits down to dinner every evening, where does that food come from? It all comes from the grocery store. I think a lot of consumers don't even realize this, the vast majority of conventional farmers today, do not eat anything they grow on their farms. They go to the grocery store and restaurants just like every other consumer. Mm-hmm. . And that's where they get their food. So they don't even know themselves what the food they grow on their own farms tastes like. Right. They have no clue. And to me that's very sad. 

[00:49:58] Susie: It is sad. Yeah. Really sad. Okay. Well thank you so much. Is there anything we didn't cover that you think is really important that we missed? 

[00:50:06] Dr. Williams: Well, what I would say and there's a lot of data to back all of this up and you know, what we didn't want to do today was just get bogged down in data. 

[00:50:16] Susie: Right. 

[00:50:16] Dr. Williams: But we will be posting the publications and so forth, as we get these completed. So I just want to make your listeners aware of that and we'll be posting a lot of this on and on the websites. So they can be looking for this. And as we continue this research, we're going to have more and more publications. You know, we're going to have quite a few that we'll be posting in 2023 and beyond. So be looking for this. And if, if you want to dig deeper and you want to see actual data and comparisons, it will be available.

[00:50:56] Susie: Right. And so two things. One is, are there particular journals like, you know, in healthcare, of course there's a number, thousands of journals. Of course there's leading ones, but then there's other ones. And then. , maybe we're not reading the other , you know, it's not as interdisciplinary as maybe we should be. But are there any particular journals in the ag world that, let's say someone like myself or even a consumer could just say, Hey, I, I'm interested in that. I want to check that out. Any particular leading publications? 

[00:51:29] Dr. Williams: Hmm. You know, that, that's a very good question. Unfortunately, in this arena of science, the, the short answer is going to be no. Yeah probably one of them is, is Frontiers. Okay. It's called Frontiers In Science and they will typically publish a lot more of things like this. You know, and, and again, having lived in that academic world most of your major traditional journals only publish very traditional science. 

I was going to make that comment. I've discovered that more, had my eyes opened a little bit more during the whole pandemic thing about what gets published, what doesn't get published, what gets (Yep.) wwept under the rug. Yep. Doesn't mean it's not relevant, it's just not there for us to, it's just not, not being approved by those reviewers for that specific journal because it doesn't fit what they want to publish.

And that truly, I've been a, I've been a reviewer, okay? And I promise you that's a big part of it. It's got to fit the typical science that is always published in that journal. And if it's radically different, they're going to reject you. Even though the science is valid and everything else, the journal's going to reject you because it's so radically different from what they normally publish.

It's the way science works today, unfortunately. So what I will say apparently like that, that's what researching in science is about though, right? New discoveries and supposed to be. Supposed to be, right? Yeah. So this will come from an array of different journals. You know, but again, we'll be posting so, you know, they'll be able to have access to it and we'll make darn sure that the consumer has access because we want them to be able to read this.

[00:53:20] Susie: Yeah. Well that's what I was going to say, because as I look for journals, when I've not been affiliated with a big institution, it's hard for me to get some journals because if they're not open access or certain articles, and then it'll say pay $55 or $250 or whatever for this article, but mm-hmm. when I've emailed the author, the lead author, they'll send it to me, so it's a little work around. They'll usually do that, but yep. You know, but I think having access people, cuz they're more interested in getting information and waiting through the noise is getting increasingly difficult.

I think just being that bridge between like I, I feel like you have this and, and I have it too. I was raised up in institutions that got lots of NIH funding, very heavily research oriented. So having a really strong foundation in that. But then there's what happens with mom in the kitchen with three kids mm-hmm. , you know, like she doesn't have time to figure that out, you know what I mean? So you're listening to, to maybe some of what's pop science and so having people like yourself or hopefully myself to help bridge that gap between the rat race of daily life and what's actually health promoting or, or good science.

[00:54:34] Dr. Williams: Absolutely. Totally, totally concur on that. And , again, that's why we strive to put out, you know, accurate information. So that the consumer can trust what they read off of our websites and they have the truth in front of them so that they can then make the best decisions for them and their families.

[00:54:57] Susie: Right. It's all about being healthy people, healthy families, healthy communities, and a healthy planet. Right. 

[00:55:05] Dr. Williams: You know, isn't that the beauty of this (Yes.) Is that there are no losers in every other type of agriculture that we can think about, somebody has to lose or something has to lose.

[00:55:17] Susie: Right. 

[00:55:17] Dr. Williams: You know, with, with regenerative agriculture, everybody and everything wins. Ultimately that's what I want to be involved in, you know, is something where we don't have to pick between winners and losers. 

[00:55:31] Susie: That'd be, that would be awesome. One more question that I swear that's going to be it. As a medical person, I know the hotspots around the country with medicine, right? Cuz I was from North Carolina, went to Chapel Hill, so like, that's kind of like a little hotbed there. Where are the little hotbeds of regenerative agriculture even if they're not hosting one of your soil health academies or something like that? Are there little pockets around the US that are kind of like up and coming when it comes to regenerative ag? 

[00:55:57] Dr. Williams: There, there are. So some of the areas that I would immediately mention and it may not even be whole states, you know, but regions within a state. There's certainly pockets of this, like in New York State in Indiana and Missouri, you know, particularly on the livestock side of Missouri, they, there's been a lot of farmers there that have really latched onto this Minnesota and South Dakota are two other states, North Dakota so tho Michigan as well. So those are some states that immediately come to mind, that are really making big strides in this regard. Some others that mm-hmm. have a long way to go, or a lot of what we consider are traditional farming states like Illinois and Iowa and Nebraska and so forth, that they've still got a ways to go, you know, on, on improving what they're doing.

 Unfortunately, California's another one that has a very long way to go. They're the, the majority of agriculture in California, unfortunately, is very conventional and, you know, is very degrading to the soil. And of course, Those foods that are produced don't have any phytonutrient richness. So California's another state like Iowa and Illinois that need to really step up their game to, to be quite honest with you. And I, I'll say that publicly to challenge them, you know, step it up. 

 Right. Which is interesting because they have a lot of stuff in place for for cancer causing things, what is it called? The Proposition 65 which I don't know a ton about. Right, right. You know, so they seem to be on a leading edge when it comes to that, but maybe not so much with ag, I guess. 

[00:57:39] Dr. Williams: Nope. And interesting. All you gotta do is go out there and drive around and you'll see go drive through the Central Valley. It, it's not a pretty sight. 

[00:57:49] Susie: I heard something before we talked the first time I, it was you talking about driving through California and you guys saw like one sunflower, , standing in the middle of dry dirt. 

[00:58:00] Dr. Williams: Yeah. We, we termed that a California pollinator strip.

[00:58:05] Susie: Right, right. Aw, it's very sad when you think of those things, you know. 

[00:58:12] Dr. Williams: It is. Yeah, it is. And that, that's why I am saying, for anybody listening that farms in California, step it up. You got a long way to go. 

[00:58:23] Susie: Yeah. Okay. Well, thank you again for being here. I appreciate your time. I really do. I think it's very important information that consumers need to hear. 

[00:58:33] Dr. Williams: Well, you're very welcome. It, it's been an absolute pleasure.