Is it bizarre or culinary genius? Is it a new health fad or a delicate delight in a high-end restaurant meal? Either way, soil is now on the menu!
Eating soil is a culinary and health fad. Previously I had thought that eating soil was a serious disease. Pica, otherwise known as geophagy/lithophagia, is a desire to eat soil, clay, chalk and other objects. It is caused by many factors, and often requires medical attention. I didn’t really notice the new trend to eat soil until my friend Andi posted an article about the health benefits of eating clay. He wasn’t endorsing the idea of eating clay, but merely pondering and questioning the science (and idea) behind such an article. This got me wondering about why you would eat soil, and does it taste good?
What?!?! You eat soil for your health!
Well, maybe not soil. People are eating clay for health benefits. The article explains the reasons why we should eat clay for our health:
““Clay contains the minerals and energy that the defense mechanism needs; it improves bowel function and detoxifies the body of pollutants.” – John Tilden, M.D. According to the book The Clay Cure by Ran Knishinsky, clay can be credited with healing a wide range of illnesses. These include constipation, diarrhea, anemia, chronic infections, skin ailments such as eczema and acne, heavy-metal poisoning, exposure to pesticides and other toxins, arthritis, and stress.”
You can watch more about health benefits of eating clay (bentonite and montmorillanite) here.
The main health benefits from eating clay, the article suggests, is the removal of toxins from our bodies. This person also suggests it works for blood. I’m not so sure, given it is ingested. We know that clays (type dependant) have an ability to absorb chemicals, water, bind with organics and cations etc. Does this really work the same way for people? Now, I’m curious.
I decided to do some searching of peer-review literature clay and soil consumption for human health. I did some Google Scholar searches using a range of key word combinations, and found two particular papers. One paper was a review of the benefits of clay for human health, including oral uses. This paper does suggest that clay is beneficial as a laxative, to relieve diarrhoea and “they adhere to the gastric and intestinal mucous membrane and protect them and can absorb toxins, bacteria and even viruses.” The author then also discusses the caution of using clays; they can remove enzymes and reduce nutrition, and how the clay works once in the body is very dependant on the clay type you ingest. Ok, so it can work the same in people as soils! Also just like different types of clays in soils, not all clays work the same way inside the human body. One may act as a laxative, whilst another may increase your need to go to the bathroom. If we look at another paper on eating soil, it has a rather remorse list. It includes toxic elements, parasites and possibly even, death.
Clays are good, if used wisely and chosen for purpose. Soils, probably not. More literature and study required.
Oh my! You paid how much to eat soil?
Flavouring meals with soil is becoming a high-end culinary trend. Restaurants are now serving soil on their menu. Another friend alerted me to Ne Quittez Pas in Japan. It is a French restaurant that is selling soil-related gourmet delights. I was a little taken aback. I’m not sure I could actually EAT the soil, even though the soil was tested for safety. I shared this post with fellow soil scientists who all had mixed reactions. Some were also not sure if they could eat the soil that they study every day. Whilst others thought the description sounded magnificent! Perhaps I, as do others, have an un-natural aversion to the idea of eating dirt?
In my mind, the jury is still out! I’m still not sure I would eat soil in my food, and maybe only take clay if it was medically prescribed.
What do you think? Do you know of any evidence to show that clay and soil is good for human health? Does it taste good and should it fetch a premium price? And would you eat it?