Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health
By Jo Robinson
Little, Brown and Company 2013
When you walk into the typical supermarket produce section you will see only a small fraction of the total variety of vegetables and fruits that exist in the world. Most of what you see has been bred to be bigger, sweeter and prettier than their distant ancestors. That breeding has had consequences in many cases but again, there are exceptions. Garlic, for example, has not been fooled around with much and therefore just about any whole bulb of fresh garlic you find in the store will be good. However, if it is not handled, stored, or prepared properly, it quickly loses most of its health benefits. The same is true for many other vegetables.
Contrary to what you might assume, breeding the nutrition out of fruits and vegetables didn’t just start a few hundred years ago but in some cases, thousands of years ago. Comparison between wild and domestic varieties shows huge nutritional differences in some cases. You can get up to forty times more lycopene from wild tomatoes than that contained in modern descendants. The modern ones do look prettier though, and wild versions would probably not sell well.
Some vegetables are better for us nutritionally when they are cooked rather than eaten raw. Cooked carrots give you significantly more beta-carotene than the raw form. As with most root vegetables, the skin or outer surface contains more nutritional components, so baby carrots, which are in fact merely pared down regular carrots, are not the most nutritious option.
I didn’t see any mention of possible thyroid risk when too many cruciferous vegetables are eaten raw. I also didn’t see any mention of the potential downside to oxalates in raw spinach. On the other hand, Eating on the Wild Side provides a wealth of advice on what to look for to get the best that is available from typical grocery store offerings, and what you want to plant in your garden that could be better than what you find in any store.
There is a funny little story about Tang, the “breakfast drink,” in the citrus chapter. Tang was relatively unknown to consumers at large until it was promoted as used by NASA astronauts. Certain details were overlooked in those old commercials. NASA did not use Tang because it is such a nutritious product. It is not. It just happened to work best for flavoring the recycled water that astronauts drank in the space capsules. You don’t want to think about that too much.
This book does not completely cover nutrition but then doesn’t claim to cover everything. There are a few details about things like edamame that I would disagree with, but only a few. There is a wealth of information about what are the best vegetable and fruit options and how to make the most of them. I give this book a qualified thumbs UP.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2013.