Doomsday Vault & Survival Foods: Think Plants

The Doomsday Seed Vault turns 4 on February 26, 2012

This place is mighty impressive and I must confess; up until last week, I had never heard of it.

And CBS News reported on some impressive birthday gifts that the Norway seed vault received last week—nearly 25,000 samples of seeds from around the world, including grains that grow on one of the world’s highest mountain ranges.

This brings the total to 740,000 seed samples now stored an Arctic mountain on the Svaldbard archipelago. Why do we need such a vault? The CBS article explains (see link below):

“Our crop diversity is constantly under threat, from dramatic dangers such as fires, political unrest, war and tornadoes, as well as the mundane, such as failing refrigeration systems and budget cuts. But these seeds are the future of our food supply, as they carry genetic treasure such as heat resistance, drought tolerance or disease and pest resistance. Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, one of the entities responsible for the vault, said in a news release.

The inside of the Doomsday Seed Vault. If I didn’t know better, I might think that I was in a grocery warehouse in Omaha.

All about plants. In other words, the vault is intended to act as a backup for living crop collections around the world. So what kind of samples were included in this latest birthday gift?

  • Grains from Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains, including wheat that grows across a wide range of elevations, in hot summers, and harsh, snowy winters. 
  • A variety of wheat, known as Norin-10, which is the source of genes that have given modern wheat plants strong, short stems capable of supporting more grain, contributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
  • Several subspecies of barley imported to the U.S. from Poland, and grown in the Pacific Northwest; these subspecies gave rise to modern varieties, including one malting barley called “Klages” that is popular among craft beer brewers.

A massive structure in the side of a mountain, the vault has the capacity to hold 4.5 million seed samples (each with about 500 seeds) for a maximum of 2.25 billion seeds. Located near the village of Longyearbyen, Svalbard — a group of islands north of mainland Norway, the arctic permafrost offers natural freezing for the seeds, while additional cooling brings the temperatures down to minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius).

What about animal foods for our Doomsday needs? A related article explores the seven perfect survival foods—and I agree with six of them. You see, the scientists who prepared the list for are among most of the world’s brightest who still believe we need to eat animal protein to survive. But at least they demonstrated a sense of humor in their opening paragraph:

Just say NO to bacon—but YES to cantaloupe.

If you could take only seven kinds of food to a deserted island, what would they be? Bacon might top your list, but you won’t have a cardiologist to bail you out when your arteries fill with fat.

Although still uninformed about fish, they do know a thing or two about eating healthy:

Diets benefit from being diverse. U.S. health organizations advocate eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. In Denmark the number is six, not because they want to be healthier but because six sounds like the word “sex” in Danish, and the campaign plays on the pun of “sex every day.” The Japanese try to eat 30 different kinds of food each day.

Here’s their list of seven-–including the fish that is on almost everyone’s list thanks to those precious omega-3s. They lead off the list with this introduction:

Sticking just to the following seven foods would likely serve you better than the typical American diet and meet your needs for macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

According to Dr. Fuhrman, this powerful plant food sits atop the nutrient-density chart.

  1. Beans. As with berries, most beans are highly nutritious. Black (turtle), red (kidney), pinto and soy top many nutritionists’ lists of so-called superfoods. This will probably be your best source of calcium and iron on the island. Beans are a versatile island food, too, for once dried the keep for a long time.
  2. Kale. While most leafy green vegetables will do you good, kale is particularly rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can boil the stems for a simple vegetable broth. Kale was bred from wild cabbage, and close cousins include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collard, kohlrabi, mustard and rapini.
  3. Cantaloupe. As with berries, cantaloupe is both tasty and nutritious. Although a little high in sugar, it is too good a source of vitamins A and C and potassium to pass up. Its lack of fat and lower glycemic load index makes cantaloupe a slightly better pick than bananas.
  4. Berries. Blueberries, raspberries, wolf berries … take your pick if they are available for picking. Few foods match berries in flavor, vitamin content and antioxidant potency. To this list add kiwifruit, once called the Chinese gooseberry but changed for marketing reasons. Kiwifruit has more vitamin C than oranges and about as much potassium as a banana. Beware of poisonous berries, such as holly, Franken Berry and Boo Berry. Nasty stuff.
  5. Barley. Could anything be sexier than oats? Yes, it’s barley! Okay, maybe both grains just remind you of Wilford Brimley having a good bowel movement. But barley, more so than oats and other whole grains, lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and raises “good” HDL. As with other grains, barley has essential vitamins (such as niacin and other B vitamins) and minerals (manganese and selenium) that are otherwise not so abundant in fruits. And if you have enough of it on your island, you can brew up some beer or whisky.
  6. Seaweed. Where there’s sea, there’s seaweed. Even the laziest among us can harvest what gets washed up. Kelp, alaria and laver (kombu, wakame and nori in Japanese cuisine) are among the most common. Almost all kinds are edible. Seaweed is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Once dried it will keep of months, too. Seaweed is a regular part of the Asian diet, and most Japanese homes will have four or five kinds on hand. Even if you avoid sushi, you’ve eaten seaweed in ice cream. Irish moss (carrageenan) is a thickening agent.
  7. Fish. Chances are, being on an island, you’ll have fish around. If a river runs through it, and if that river has salmon, then you’re really in luck. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for your heart. Any fish, though, is a good source of healthy fat and protein. Best of all, you can eat most ocean fish raw, in case you forgot to bring your top seven favorite Zippo lighters. 

    I know it’s 75% fat, but in survival mode, I am going be burning a lot of calories and I can eat just so much kale. I say YES to avocado.

Avocado. My substitute for fish. In survival mode, there will be none of the harmful omega-6s in my diet; therefore, I am simply not worried about getting my omega-3s or I would’ve chosen walnuts as my substitute. (The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is most important.)

The Tarahumara don’t eat fish and they seem to be doing just fine without them. Still worried about omega-3? Well, just substitute walnuts for the seaweed, I doubt that you’re eating much of that anyway.

In closing, here are the two reference articles mentioned earlier.

The CBS News Doomsday Vault Article

7 Perfect Survival Foods | LiveScience.

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About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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3 Responses to Doomsday Vault & Survival Foods: Think Plants

  1. Peter says:

    Beans don’t get the credit they deserve. There is such a range of beans and legumes to choose.
    Good to see you have them listed at #1

  2. ———————–Salmon or Flaxseed Meal for your Omega-3 fatty acid?

    ————-I did this study for input to my “Nutrition Science” class at Hancock College.



    1. Quantity—-4 oz. Broiled or baked—–2 tablespoons = 20 gm.—Flax – raw better. Less food.

    2. Kcal energy—-244 calories >10% of daily need—110 calories——–Flax 55% less
    3. Protein———31 gm. = too much———– 4 gm.———————Flax 87% less
    ——————————–Daily need <40 gm. We eat too much protein and most is animal.
    4. Carbohydrate———–Zero Gm.————–5 gm.———————–Flax's fiber
    4a. Carb Sugar—————–0———————-0
    4b. Carb Fiber—————– 0——————–5 gm.——–Daily need ~ 40 gm. More is better! ======================================
    5. Fat—————12 gm., 108 calories——–8 gm., 72 calories———–Flax 22% less

    5a. Saturated Fat——2.2 gm., = 18%———–1 gm., = 12.5%————–Flax 55% less
    ——————————————————–Daily need Is ZERO! 2.2 x more in salmon!
    5b. Mono-Unsat. Fat——6 gm., = 50%———- ~ zero gm.———-Flax. We eat too much fat
    5c. Poly-Unsat Fat——-2.7 gm., = 22.5%——6.9 gm., = 86%!—–Flax – here is the Omega-3!

    Per Dr. McDougall, in his Aug. '06 newsletter in "Favorite 5 Articles" that he reviewed —
    "Our requirements for "essential fats" (Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. K.) are very small — no more than 0.5 gm./day. Only plants can synthesize essential fats — so eating plant foods is the obvious source of these necessary nutrients. Because body fat (adipose tissue) store these essential fats efficiently, even if overweight people were placed on an artificially manufactured fat-free diet, they would have little risk of becoming deficient in essential fats over their entire lifetime. Note: a diet made of unprocessed plant foods, like the McDougall Diet, naturally contains about 7% of its calories as fat — and about half of the total fat found in plant foods is of the essential variety — the kind that we need."
    ————————-Omega-3 and Omega-6 are damaged by heat = cooking!————-
    5c1. Omega-3 fat———- 0.27 gm. broiled—–3.8 gm., = 48% of total—–Flax – best source
    ———————————0.07 gm. raw
    5c2. Omega-6 fat———- ~ 0 broiled———-1.3 gm.—————–Flax – good to have low
    Most bad diets have way too much Omega-6 already! Desired ratio is less than 4 to 1 of Omega-6 to Omega-3. So this low value of Omega-6 in flaxseed is a desirable feature, since we are supposedly seeking more Omega-3 this way! But, again, we don't need to do this supplementation! Get the total fats out of your diet as much as possible.
    5c3. Omega-9 fat————-?——————-1.8 gm.———————-NON-ESSENTIAL
    5c4. Cholesterol fat———-98 mg. ——-ZERO! None in any plant.————–Flax!
    <300 mg./day is gov. guideline. Zero much better to shoot for! 33% for day in salmon item!
    6. Sodium (salt)—-75 mg.(or more in restaurant)——-ZERO!———–Flax, though no biggie.

    7. Phytochemicals——None in animal foods———-Yes!——————-Flax!

    8. Potassium————-424 mg.———170 mg.———Non-problem for "good" plant nutrition

    9. Hazardous items—–You bet!!!—None, but supplement not needed.—FLAX, OF COURSE!
    For AHC "FCS 110 Course — Nutrition Science"——12 Mar'07—–By Bill Kleinbauer
    William Kleinbauer on Vimeo =

  3. Leo S. says:

    Another excellent source of Omega-3 would be freshly-ground flaxseed. The whole seed might go right through one without digesting.

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