The Food 411: Can we make our healthy foods even healthier?


Okay, this isn’t going to be a don’t eat this/don’t eat that kind of article. Everyone has heard enough about food sensitivities or if not, read more here.

Instead, I think we should focus on taking the great foods that we are already eating and increasing their nutrient density. I thought I had an epiphany, but turns out I wasn’t the only one. Since I tend to think about my work 24/7, it didn’t seem odd to me to that while camping in a remote part of Mexico, immersed in my own primitive hot tub, that I would get excited reading Jo Robinson’s latest book, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimal Health.

Our foods have changed

It isn’t a surprise to anyone that our food is different than designed. We have learned how to grow it out of season and modify it to increase crop yield. We have successfully changed textures, flavors, and other qualities to meet the desires of our palates. The issue is that by redesigning our foods, in many cases we have taken away their innate nutrient and healing qualities, purposely put there by mother nature as our daily “multivitamin” or in the case of many foods, our medicine cabinet.

For instance, Robinson points out that purslane has 6 more times vitamin E  and 14 times more omega- 3 fatty acids than our heralded spinach–all  while containing 7 more times beta-carotene than carrots! Its popularity is growing:

My husband prefers a wild spinach called Lamb’s Quarters that grows as a weed in our yard. His mother used to cultivate it from ditches on the side of the road. I know it doesn’t sound too appealing, but it really is. It can be tough if picked too late and is maybe not as sweet as cultivated spinach, but “offers a greener, earthier, mineral flavor that may be reminiscent to asparagus.” If you prefer to stick with spinach, you can improve its phytonutrient density by choosing medium size leaves (not baby), using it quickly, and not boiling it. Boiling strips away 3/4 of the nutrients, so you might as well drink the broth instead!

Food as medicine

Now, I am not saying we need to return to eating only ancestral foods, which might just be unpalatable. Instead, we can choose the most nutritious varieties of the foods we eat and prepare/store them correctly to maintain their healing qualities.

For example, the old adage, an apple a day, keeps the doctor away. In Myth Buster fashion, it was put to the scientific test. In a study completed in 2009, 46 men with the signs of Metabolic Syndrome (weight around midsection, high cholesterol, LDL, low HDL, etc) were divided into two equal groups. The only difference between the groups was that one was required to consume 300g of unpeeled Golden Delicious apples daily. Two months later, testing revealed that the serum triglyceride and its carrier protein, VLDL levels increased. Since Golden Delicious are low in phytonutrients and very high in sugar, folks with insulin resistance have a hard time metabolizing the sugar and instead converted it to fat. 

Selecting the appropriate type of apple might have authored a completely different outcome. If we have an understanding of the varieties of our favorite foods we can get the nutrients that nature intended.

Checkout The Food 411 entries to learn more about how to best choose, store, and prepare your favorite foods.

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