Sweeter Veggies, Less Nutrition

A THM Feature Article

SweeterVeggiesMost humans crave sweet food… sweet onions, sweet apples, sweet corn… and government agriculture departments, chemical companies and farmers do their best to oblige that appetite.

We feel good about ourselves because we’re eating ‘healthy’ fruits and vegetables while satisfying our craving for sweets at the same time. And for sure it’s preferable to gorging on processed candies and cakes.

But that sweetness in our fruits and vegetables comes at a cost—the cost of nutrition, according to Jo Robinson, in a New York Times article of May 25, entitled ‘Breeding Nutrition Out of Our Food’.

Much of our produce is low in phytonutrients, compounds that reduce the chance that we will be hit with the scourges of modern disease—cancer, autism, heart disease, diabetes, dementia. One common theme in nutrient deficiency is…SWEETNESS. The more palatable, the less nutritious.

The sweet, sweet corn we know and cherish today was born in a “cloud of radiation,” according to Robinson. In the 1920s,  scientists experimenting with genes  blasted corn seed with x-rays and cobalt radiation. In the 1940s they were blasted with atomic radiation. They were stored in a seed bank and ten years later were planted and produced corn that was TEN TIMES SWEETER than the blue and purple and red corn that had been known and enjoyed before.

Those radiation-blasted seeds are the ancestors of the sweet corn we eat today, along with the corn additives that are added to countless processed foods in the supermarkets.

But anthropologists and paleontologists have found that even the most nutritious colored corns of the past, when used as a primary food, did not build the strong bones and bodies evident in ancient  hunters and gatherers. Most of the ancient ones certainly did not live to a ripe old age and mostly died young of accidents, war and infections…but not of the degenerative diseases that are afflicting so many people today at a younger and younger age.

Many of us suffering degenerative diseases are kept alive today because of modern technology. Obviously we can no longer be hunters and gatherers, but wouldn’t it be great if we could and would bypass the degeneration caused by the inferior food of modern times and combine the old ways  and clean foods of strong people with modern knowledge, cures and procedures that would have saved our ancestors from early death?

The diminishment of nutrition didn’t just start with modern-day chemicals, GMOs and soil depeletion (factors which have hastened the process), but long ago, when mankind stopped foraging and began its dependence on farming.

Robinson points out in her article that many wild plants regarded today as pests to get rid of actually contain far more nutrients than many of the commercial plants we obtain at the market. For example, in equal portions, wild dandelions contain seven time more phytonutrients  than today’s spinach, regarded as a ‘superfood.’ Small dandelions are excellent in salads, large ones a fine cooked green. (Native Americans and pioneer Blacks knew this). Other wild greens full of phytonutrients include poke weeds, pigweed and lamb’s quarters. Poke grows in the South, pigweed, lamb’s quarters and dandelions pop up all over the world in disturbed soil. (Gardeners should think twice before plucking them out of their gardens and discarding them.)

A little purple potato native to Peru contains 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than today’s Russets. (The descendants of those purple potatoes, usually available only in some health food  and grocery stores, and at farmers markets are the most nutritious potato on the market today). The purple potato has 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than the common and popular Russets.

Arugula is an excellent salad and cooking green, closely related to its ancient ancestor. Green onions and shallots contain more nutrients than white onions, and sweet onions are less nutritious than plain old strong onions, according to Robinson. The green parts of onions are the most nutritious part of the plants. And so on and on.

In conclusion, Robinson noted that government health agencies, along with companies such as Monsanto, are far more concerned with developing disease-resistant plants than they are with the health-building  nutrients contained in those plants. So…

We need to seriously consider the words of  Hippocrates, our ‘Father of Medicine, who set our scientific  and good health guidelines more than a thousand years ago with the words, “Food is our medicine and our medicine is our food.”

Good food and good health information is still plentifully  available in health food stores, supermarket organic sections, whole food supplements…..and in our own gardens.

The choice is ours….to learn and to act.

 

 

 

 

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