A friend of mine recently suggested I read Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson. I found the book fascinating and overwhelmed my husband with the facts and figures about nutritional content and history of fruits and vegetables. Anyone interested in choosing the most nutritious varieties to get the most from their meals should read this book. It has also inspired me to redesigning my garden for next spring to include a berry bush and quite possibly an apple tree (there may not be space for the tree though).
Anyone that has read a few blogs or perused Pinterest knows that the best vegetables are the colorful ones. There are a few exceptions to the rule that are outlined in the book, including the artichoke and green cabbage (although purple cabbage is even better for you). On the flip side, while corn is bright yellow, it has almost no nutritional content and is filled with sugars that spike your blood sugar.
Each chapter begins with the history of a plant or plant family, followed by the best varieties to choose, how to cook them, and a recipe. I never knew that by waiting ten minutes after pressing garlic before putting it over heat far more nutrients are retained. The garlic press also helps to trigger a process that produces more nutrients than just dicing it by hand. Another fun fact, garlic is part of the allium family, a group of plants that include scallions, shallots, chives, and leeks. For centuries, the allium family has been used for more than just flavor, but as a medicine. Garlic has been proven to help fight off cancer, by reducing tumor cell growth.
What is most interesting is how we have completely altered most of our fruits and vegetables to be easier to harvest, prepare, and eat. We bred out all the bitter and stringy aspects to make them more desirable. A crab apple is more akin to the original apple tree, not the golden delicious, yet our pallets prefer the sweeter taste of the golden delicious. Some of the sweetest fruits available, tropical varieties like pineapple, papaya, and bananas, have almost no added nutritional value. They are high in sugars and low in phytonutrients plus they are not grown in the United States and add to the amount of nonrenewable fuels used to transport them here. Other mutations include removing seeds from plants that made them nearly inedible. The banana used to be filled with large hard seeds, but they were bred into soft little flecks of black in the middle of the fruit (if you are going to buy bananas, spring for the smaller red variety, as they are more nutritious).
Not every plant is covered in this book, such as celery or cucumbers, two varieties that I eat a lot of. I am guessing their high water content and light color make them less desirable than having a large purple and red leaf salad. My fridge is definitely more colorful after reading this book, and while I do not know that I will feel the immediate effects of eating more nutritious plants, I do like knowing that what I am eating will help my health in the long run.