A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of accompanying an expert forager, along with a small group of people, out on an expedition into the woods. While the findings of the day were fairly meager, due to the ravenous deer population in the area, everything we did find was highly touted by our resident expert as being of the highest nutritional order. Stuff you might scrape off of your boot was rich in phytonutrients or a near miracle medicinal cure that had been overlooked for generations. The message here was that we had been, far too long, ignoring wild foods in favor of their domesticated cousins that don’t pack nearly the same punch.
I was reminded of this trip when I read author Jo Robinson’s editorial in The New York Times this past weekend titled, “Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food.” Robinson makes the case that even the most organic of store-bought produce can’t compare nutritionally to the foods you get in the wild. Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia.
Even foods that are considered “superfoods” can’t really compare to their wild counterparts. This is because, as Robinson says, we have effectively bred the nutrition out of our crops in favor of maintaining sweetness, color, etc. Robinson uses the example of corn, which is in just about everything these days, and how our revolutionary era corn was rich in deep color but not so rich in flavor. Over the years our corn has been bred to provide sweetness, but very little by way of nutrition. Robinson’s advice is to supplement your grocery shopping with a bit of wild foods, and make sure you, when shopping in the store, angle for the more color-rich varieties of corn, potatoes, etc, instead of the variety of pale or white foods (like white corn and white potatoes) that are nutritionally deficient.
How does this news sit with you? Are you shocked or is it no big news? Do you offset your lack of nutrition with wild greens and fruits? If so, what works for you and what doesn’t?