Food and health

The Cell Factory

Imagine each cell in your body is a busy factory.

I created the Cell Factory analogy when writing our first book. It’s simple and easy to understand, and has become so popular, it is now the backbone of how we at Berit Nordstrand AS explain how food works in your body.

It was the focal point of the TEDx presentation in October 2014.

Imagine each cell in your body is a busy factory, making everything from cell parts to muscle fibers to chemicals which serve as messengers.

Like other factories, your cell factories are dependent on deliveries of materials in order to produce what they are designed to produce. A car factory needs a certain amount of steel, certain kinds of hoses and belts and pipes, nuts and bolts, leather for the interior, etc. If three truckloads of pipes arrive but no steel, there’s a challenge – and even more of one the hoses are all the wrong size.

The same is true for your cell factories. They need deliveries of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in a certain balance, at a certain time, in order to function optimally.

Walls and Windows

Different kinds of fatty acids comprise the walls, windows and doors of our cell factories.  Stiff, natural saturated fatty acids make great paneling for these walls.  Pliable, fragile, zigzag-shaped unsaturated fatty acids become windows and doors which permit raw materials and workers to come in and allow finished products and waste to exit.

To maintain a high-quality cell factory, these fats need to come from minimally processed sources.  Highly processed fats tend to be unrecognizable building materials, and can cause big problems for your cell factories and disease in your body.

Natural unsaturated fats from fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and extra-virgin olive oil make excellent windows and doors. Natural saturated fats from eggs, butter, coconut oil, dairy and quality meats are well designed for our windows and walls.

Hot, Burning Oven

In each cell factory you’ll find a hot oven.  (This is simplified: there are several such “ovens” in a real cell – your mitochondria). Carbohydrates, fat and proteins all can be “burned” to make energy to fuel the cell and, as a result, fuel our bodies.

Not far from your oven there’s a production manual — your DNA, or gene book.  It contains all the instructions you need for everything the cell factory produces.

Antioxidant Fire Screen

Since the oven in the middle of the cell is not protected by a screen, sparks can fly out into the cell.  If that happens, they can damage everything from walls to workers to the production manual. These sparks are called free radicals or ”oxidants”.  The everyday process of burning raw materials to produce energy can result in a lot of these spark-like free radicals.

It’s important to extinguish most of these sparks before they cause damage.  (No, you actaully don’t want to put out all of them. But that’s another story.) That’s where “antioxidants” come in — anti means ”against.” The cell factories make some antioxidants; others we have to get through food.

Antioxidents give plants their color and taste, and there are many different kinds of them in the plant kingdom.  Different colors and different flavors mean different kinds of antioxidants, and each of them can extinguish different sparks. That makes it important to enjoy a rainbow of colors and flavors in vegetables, berries, fruits, herbs and spices.

Vitamin Workers

Without workers and equipment, you have an empty factory.  The workers in your cell factories are the vitamins we find in fresh food.  Their tasks include maintaining the cell factory, reading the (DNA) production manual, producing new cell parts and making substances which help your body feel relaxed, energetic, motivated — or perhaps sleepy.

Since it’s important that all the vitamin workers show up for their shift, we need to take care of them on their way to work!  Vitamins are sensitive to heat, light, pressure and even oxygen in the air.  It doesn’t take much to destroy them.  It’s why processed and refined foods are often low in vitamins; they’ve been handled too much for these workers to survive.

The plant kingdom can supply you with almost all the vitamins and the antioxidants you need. They abound in vegetables, beans and other pulses, whole grains, berries and other fruits, herbs and spices.  The exception is vitamin B12, which is primarily found in animal sources like meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. Small amounts can be found in some sea-vegetables, miso and tempeh, but vegans need to supplement their diet with B12.

Mineral Tools

In order for workers perform well, they need good tools — in this case, minerals.  While vitamins are fragile, the tools — iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium and other minerals — are strong and can handle a lot more.  Light, heat, pressure and air are not much of a threat to them.

Minerals come from the soil, so one of the best ways to ensure you get enough is to feast on plants, nuts and seeds grown in mineral-rich soil.  Enjoy raw, steamed and cooked vegetables to provide an abundance mineral tools to your vitamin workers. If you boil your vegetables, a fair amount of minerals will seep out of the plants and into the water – so save it and use it to add mineral-rich flavor to sauces and soups.

Fish and animals that have fed on mineral-rich plants provide exellent sources of minerals.


The cell factories require large deliveries of high-quality proteins — the rule of thumb is a half gram per pound body weight (just under 1 g/ kilo) — to keep production flowing.

Like words are made of letters, proteins are made of amino acids. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, and 23 amino-acid letters. Different combinations of these amino acid letters make different protein words. You can’t write the word “Cell” without a c, an e and two ll’s, and you can’t write all the protein words your body needs without the right combinations of amino acid letters. It’s important to vary your sources of protein every day, because each protein comes with a different amounts of the various amino acid letters.

Different kinds of fish, meat, eggs, dairy products and combinations of grains, nuts, seeds, beans and other pulses can provide the proteins you need.

Unwanted Materials

Just like other factories, if a cell factory has all the necessary supplies, tools and workers in place, production runs smoothly despite the occasional delivery of unwanted or unneeded materials.  Unfortunately, processed and refined foods unfortunately abound in materials our cells can’t utilize.

Live Your Life to the Fullest

What would you like more of in your life?  Better concentration?  A better memory?  A calmer state of being?  More energy?  Better sleep?  A stronger immune system?

Taking care of your cell factories by providing them with the raw materials — the fresh, natural food — they need, enables them to produce more of what your body requires so you can enjoy your life.