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Is Our Produce Lacking the Nutrition We Thought It Had?

Is Our Produce Lacking the Nutrition We Thought It Had?

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?

Read more: Basics, Blogs, Cancer, Diabetes, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Following Food, Food, Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, Vegan, Vegetarian, , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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4:44PM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

This was very suprising to me. I always thought it was the GMO products that gave no nutrients. To find out that all the fruit and veggies now days are less than they could, and should, be is distressing, to say the least. I also would be hesitant to pick things in the wild because you don't know what kind of spil they're growing in, unless you own the land. Now we have to be so careful because of the illegal dumping from the past that no one has known about - except the dumpers themselves.

2:06AM PDT on Jun 17, 2013

Hardly shocking news

3:24PM PDT on Jun 12, 2013

Thank You Eric for the article. I loved the comments from the care 2 members, good ideas and great suggestions. Keep them coming. The more we know the better we can feed our famiies.

10:27AM PDT on Jun 2, 2013

It is so sad that they have been systematically destroying the quality of our food for decades. Anytime you are fortunate enough to get home grown fruits and vegetables from heirloom plants, it is always so much more flavorful and I am sure much more nutritious as well. Those who live in urban apartments do not have the opportunity to grow much of their own produce, but for those who have homes with yards and gardens, a large portion of that space should be put to good use growing as much of it as possible organically yourself from heirloom seeds and plants, and plant fruit trees in place of merely ornamental trees. That would not only create beauty and health but would be economically helpful too.

1:18PM PDT on Jun 1, 2013

Thank you Eric, for Sharing this!

5:58AM PDT on Jun 1, 2013

yes, with our polluted planet what else would one expect?

10:14AM PDT on May 31, 2013

Little more explanation to that Lisa.
One of the bigger problems with GMO crops is that they need so much herbicide. The herbicide of choice is Round-Up, otherwise known as glyphosphate. This stuff kills everything and I mean EVERYTHING that's in soil. That includes the nutrients, enzymes and proteins in that soil. What that soil contributes to the healthfulness of the fruit or stalk or root of a plant. Then artificial fertilizers are put in. So now that food has the healthfulness the fertilizer company has decided with uncontested, SELF-tested, SELF-overseen studies, for you.

I don't trust them to have my best interests at heart when profits and power are on the line.
Do you?

8:04AM PDT on May 31, 2013

Thank you

4:16AM PDT on May 31, 2013

No one should be eating corn products today & it's difficult to find food stuffs without it! Stay away from soybean laced items as well. Read the labels on everything if you want to steer clear of potential GMO's!! Organic is really the only choice, even though it costs more. We are planting a garden at my house & hope & pray for a good yield!

1:01AM PDT on May 31, 2013

There's not much wild in winter except rain and snow. However, in Spring, I gather dandelions, followed by salmon berries and black-berries. I'm too cautious to pick wild mushrooms.. Blue berries aren't grown locally, but they will be sold at the farmers' market.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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