Eating on the Wild Side

Eating-on-the-Wide-Side-Book-1Just finishing Jo Robinson’s book: Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimal Health. It explains how we’ve hybridized healthy plant chemicals out of our produce. The result of (popular punching bag) modern industrial farming? Not quite, Robinson says. Nutritional quality declined about 10,000 years ago when farming first began.

Our taste buds love sweet; so, the first farmers “selected out” the more bitter, sour or astringent crop varieties. Oops, those tastes often indicate helpful plant chemicals.

Her book is organized into a user friendly format and includes helpful nuggets one can use while selecting fruits and vegetables. A few recipes are sprinkled in.

Robinson points out well known facts; we eat potatoes more than any other vegetables and sadly they’re often in the form of fries and chips. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale and their relatives) rarely make it to our table.

Color is one clue to a healthy food and blue/purple rules. Most of us realize the deeper the green color green of our lettuce the more nutrients it contains. Hence, the nutritional shunning of iceberg!

Robinson explains wild carrots were originally purple in color which, if you can find them today, contain more than 8 times as many phytonutrientspurple-carrots (plant chemicals we believe to be healthy) than the orange carrot. So, color is a clue, up to a point – onions, garlic, shallots and leeks come to mind – pale but mighty.

We probably also know that produce does not hold well and the sooner we eat it from the time it’s harvested, the more nutrients it contains.

This is great information to a point. If you can’t find THE PERFECT variety of apple containing the most phytochemicals, should you shun apples and head to the chip aisle? Chuckle, but I think that’s what actually happens, or at least, that’s what I hear from my college students. They say they can’t afford extra healthy blueberries so they skip the always cheap bananas, the frozen berries or the canned peaches – and pick up some blueberry Kool Aid.

So, my best advice, eat produce that’s available and affordable to be well,


PS Robinson’s book is well referenced, in case you want to read some original research. She also offers a downloadable shopping guide:

PPS Will include some specific Robinson recommendations in further posts.

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Making sense of salt

Sodium-TileSodium is a vital mineral for life and also a key element used in food processing. Because of its usefulness in food manufacturing, the average sodium intake in the US is much higher than is healthy; we average about 3400 milligrams (mg) daily and should be limiting our intake to no more than 1500 mg.

When we think of sodium we link it to salt. For those of you proudly saying, “I never add salt to my food,” know that about 75 percent of all the sodium you consume is in food not prepared at home.

Breads and rolls, crazy as it seems since they don’t taste salty, are the single biggest source of sodium in the typical diet. Oh sure, thatbread English muffin at about 500 mg is just an occasional food, but a conventional piece of bread/toast supplies about 250 mg/slice. No need to drop your daily bread but realize how quickly sodium sneaks up on you.

A recent study at the University of Minnesota was conducted to determine if you could alter the acceptance of a single food (tomato juice) when you lowered its sodium content without changing the sodium in the rest of the diet. The good news was that with repeated exposure, the test subjects liked the lower sodium item at the end of the study. OK, perhaps not earth shattering, we like whatever we habitually eat, but there’s a bigger lesson here.

Healthy eating takes practice! For my student who just reported his single’s day sodium intake was 10,000 mg, I’m guessing a whole lot of practicing will have to go on to be well,


PS October 24th is National Good and Plenty Day – my dad’s favorite candy. I will be celebrating!

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