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Tips for Better Health from Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side

Three of my favorite food related quotes are, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Michael Pollen from his 7 Words & 7 Rules for Eating.

And since I have discovered Jo Robinson’s book Eating on the Wild Side, it has Eating on the wild side coverbecome one of my go-to sources for information about plants, different varieties of fruits and vegetables for growing and lots of information about the phytonutrients found in this wide array of produce.

Most of the information in this blog I have learned from Robinson’s book. Do check it out if you are a foodie like me and especially if you also like growing some of your food.skin fruits & veg

Have you ever thought about the history of the food you see in markets?

Most of our blueberries are descended from the wild swamp blueberries that are native to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

The ancient bananas were full of hard seeds and the flesh had to be cut off with a knife. Over the years we’ve transformed this almost inedible plant into the fruit we love with the zip-off peel and creamy flesh—

Generation after generation we’ve reshaped native plants and, in some cases, it’s hard to know what the original plant looked like.

Where do our fruits and vegetables come from?purple carrots

They came from wild plants that grow in widely scattered areas around the globe. Our familiar orange carrots originated in Afghanistan about 5000 years ago and they were purple. The ancestor of our beefsteak tomato is a berry-sized fruit that grows on the sides of the Andes Mountains.

Modern era fruits and veggies are very different from how they started out

The ancestor of our modern corn is a grass plant called teosinte that is native to central Mexico. Its kernels are about 30 percent protein and 2 percent sugar. Old-fashioned sweet corn (that some of remember as kids) was 4 percent protein and 10 percent sugar. Now compare that to some of our new super sweet varieties that are as high as 40 percent sugar. Actually, a Snickers bar is less sugar ounce to ounce than an ear of modern sweet corn — Snickers is only 27 percent sugar.snickers bar copy

What are phytonutrients?

Plants can’t fight their enemies or hide from them, so they protect themselves by producing an arsenal of chemical compounds that protect them from insects, disease, ultraviolet light and browsing animals. PHYTONUTRIENTS are the fuel that feeds our bodies in the food we eat.

There are more than eight thousand different phytonutrients that have been identified to date and each plant produces several hundred of them. Because of the many potential health benefits, phytonutrients have become one of the hottest new areas of research. More than 30,000 scientific papers have been published since 2000 according to Jo Robinson.ancient veggies

Did you know there are only 13 identified vitamins— but the phytonutrients they have identified in an orange are of more value than the isolated vitamin C in the orange. And the phytonutrients can be thought of as the fuel that feeds our bodies within the foods we eat.

Most food scientists and nutritionists believe that if we were still eating wild plants, there would be no need for food supplements. One species of wild tomato, for example, has fifteen times more lycopene that the typical supermarket tomato. Some of the native potatoes that grow in the foothills of the Andes have 28 times more phytonutrients than our russet potatoes. One species of wild apple that grows in Nepal has an amazing 100 times more bio nutrients than our most popular apples. Just a few ounces of that fruit provide the same phytonutrients as six large Fujis or Galas.

The Agricultural Revolution began 10,000 years ago

Our ancestors chose the wild plants that were the most pleasurable to eat. Wild figs and dates were two of the first— guess why? They are the sweetest of all native fruits. Starchy cereal grains then became a central part of the diet. Farmers in the Middle East grew wheat, barley and millet; African farmers raised pearl millet and sorghum; in the Americas, corn was king; rice became the staple crop of Asia.

Oil was highly favored— olive orchards, sesame seeds and avocado remains were found 3 to 7,000 years ago. By the time of the Roman Empire in about 27 BC, 250 generations of farmers had reshaped the human diet — differences between wild plants and man-made plants had become marked — many of the most beneficial bio nutrients have a sour, astringent or bitter taste so by cultivating a sweeter more pleasant taste, they lowered the benefits of the extra phytonutrient value.beets

Roots of domesticated beets, carrots and parsnips were twice as large and contained less protein, more sugar and more starch. Most domesticated fruits were larger, had thinner skins, more sugar, less fiber, more pulp and fewer antioxidants. Remember the banana? It’s a good example — modern banana has tiny seeds and soft pulp— ancient bananas had to be cut off with a knife and had large, hard seeds.

However, all is not lost!

Meet some of the Incredible Crucifers:TG cabbage

Arugula— higher in antioxidants than most green lettuce

Broccoli— raw is better

Cabbages— red cabbage is antioxidant king among cabbages

Cauliflower— more antioxidants than cabbage

Kale— one serving has more calcium than a 6 oz glass of milk and more fiber than three slices of wheat bread

Mustard greens— highly nutritious along with collard greens and kale

Turnips— good source of vitamin C

Fun Facts— did you know?

Cook carrots whole, then slice and dice to make sweeter and help fight cancer.

Cook tomatoes for hours like grandma to triple lycopene content.

Lettuce- tear it up and store it 12 to 24 hours before use- more phytonutrients because it thought it was being attacked.

Chop garlic and leave on cutting board for 10 minutes to increase phytonutrients.

Garlic and lemon on a wooden cutting board. Healthy eating

Berries antioxidant activity are increased when cooked and canned— blueberries are best, provided you use the liquid.

Russet Burbank potatoes— bake, refrigerate overnight, then reheat to lower the impact on your blood sugar.

One Simple Change

Finding the right place to start is a challenge. Eating right and exercising regularly can seem like an overwhelming goal. What if you started making small changes that can lead to great health benefits in the future? Consider making One Simple Change by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet and perhaps even growing some.

If you are interested in this fascinating look at the history of food, and exploring some of the hybrid seeds available for growing some of your own food, check out this amazing book.

Eating on the Wild Side:

The missing link to optimum health       

By Jo Robinson

Little, Brown and Company

And remember what Michael Pollen said, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Submitted by Gwen O’Neill.

Gwen O’Neill has been a gardener for over 40 years and has always been a passionate cook. Her own health challenges led her to experiencing a variety of healing modalities. After finding that her health improved with eating more whole food and improving her nutrition using a real, whole food based supplement called Juice Plus, she committed to sharing this experience with others. The aeroponic Tower Garden by Juice Plus makes it easy to grow produce right outside your kitchen door.

trio plus omega pic

Juice Plus real food!





oneill.gwentower garden trio



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